Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Freedom to be Free

There are some days when we just need to enjoy whatever road we are traveling. No agenda. No schedule. No big decisions.

Today was one of those days for me. Just me and the road before me and the blue sky above me. Just me and the colors of fall around me and the radio turned loud.

Just freedom.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Freedom from Drifting

I spent some time at a beach a few days ago, just looking and enjoying the view. I didn't swim this time, but as I watched the waves I remembered the times I have spent in the Atlantic and the way the waves can toss you around. I never really enjoyed that feeling of not being in control.

It made me think of the verse in Ephesians 4:14, "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.". The previous verses are encouraging us to mature as Christians so that we can be strong in our faith and able to stand in the truth. It makes me so sad to see people who are being tossed around every which way by any new wind that blows their way.

I have encountered so many people lately who are unable to discern the truth from the lies and are following whatever the latest thing may be, until something new comes along. So much of it is based on emotion and trying to find some new spiritual high. It's gotten so that I inwardly roll my eyes when I hear the words, "God spoke to me". I have to say that unless you can show me in His inspired Word where those words He spoke to you are, then I'm not real interested in hearing it. God already spoke His truth. Our job is to grow up in that truth instead of continually seeking something new.

As I looked beyond the waves of the ocean that day, I saw some pelicans drifting in the water. Going nowhere. Just drifting along. That is what is happening to so many of us. We get tired from being tossed around and we just start drifting. We drift to a different church or different doctrines, but going nowhere in our growth. It is because we aren't doing the work it takes to mature in our faith and allow God to complete His work in us.

I don't know about you but I don't want to be tossed around or to be caught drifting. I want to grow up. I want to be a mature believer. I want to stand against the winds of false teaching. The only way I know to do that is to get into the word He already gave me and to stop looking for an emotional experience or a "new" voice. God's word provides all I need for every situation I may face today and always.

Let's grow up!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Freedom to Change

Yesterday my sweet niece gave me a new look. We girls love getting a makeover, don't we? I know I do! There is something so fun about picking a new hairstyle, getting a manicure, or having our makeup done. It makes us feel a little better about ourselves. Kind of like we are a better version of ourselves.

If only it were just as fun and easy to change what is on the inside. Changing the things that are making our attitudes and behaviors ugly is hard work and no amount of beautifying the outside can hide an ugly heart.

Today I am thankful for a God who loves us no matter what our insides or outsides look like. He loves us but expects us to do the work along with Him to turn the ugliness into beauty. He gives us the ultimate makeover if we put ourselves into His capable and loving hands. And then our beauty is more than skin deep.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Freedom to Run Away

Blue skies. Ocean breezes. Warm air.

Time spent with people I love but don't often see.

I've run away this weekend. And sometimes we have to give ourselves that freedom.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Freedom to Remember

September is always such a bittersweet time of year for me and my family. It is one my favorite seasons but also very difficult as we remember both the birth and death of our daughter, Emma. She would have been 16 years old this year.

Sweet sixteen. I can't even imagine what she would be like as a teen. She was nine when she died so, of course, that is the way I remember her.

This time of year is hard but it is also good. Bittersweet. The sweetness is in the remembering. Sometimes it's hard to let yourself go there. And sometimes you feel uncomfortable remembering or talking about a lost loved one because you can tell it bothers those around you.

So you learn to keep it to yourself. But on those special days you have to allow yourself to feel the emotions and speak the memories. No matter who may feel uncomfortable.

She is my daughter and if she were still here I would be posting things about her and pictures of her and that would be okay. The thing is, though, that she is still here...in our hearts and memories. Her life still has a place in our family and we should be allowed to speak her name and share her life without feeling like we are crazy.

Dean and I were able to visit her grave today and I decided that I would give myself the freedom to remember. Today and always. Because the memories are sweet and keeping them hidden is bitter.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Freedom to Come Home

Day 3
Home.  Such a powerful word.  It stirs up so many emotions and memories for most people.  I've always appreciated the home my parents created for us when I was growing up.  It wasn't perfect but I wouldn't change anything about it.  I loved the security and love I felt there.  It wasn't about the house as much as it was about the people and the life we lived together.  I was the quiet one of the family but I was always taking it all in and storing all of the memories and feelings away to go back to when I was feeling alone. 
My mom loves to tell the story about my first day of college.  They had said their goodbyes and left for the hour drive home.  When they got to the front door the phone was ringing and my mom said, "That's Stacey."  And it was.  I was scared and wanting to go home.  I didn't go home that day but I did a lot in college, and after college I lived there again for a while.  I always seemed to find a reason to go back. 
Until I didn't.  Or couldn't.  Or wouldn't...
If there was one part of my life I wish I could go back and erase and do over it would be my early twenties.  It is one of those typical good Christian girl meets bad boy and thinks she can change him stories.  But I didn't change him.  He changed me.  I became someone I don't even like to think about and I hurt my family in so many ways. Walls were built that seemed impossible to tear down again.  I left home and followed him to another state. 
What followed was the worst nightmare I could ever imagine.  But it wasn't a nightmare.  It was my reality.  I don't want to share details because I have made the choice to leave that part of my life behind me and not bring it into my present.  I rarely talk about it unless I think it will be helpful to someone else and even then I am very protective of my heart.  I can say that I was feeling hurt, abandoned, abused, and broken. 
I wanted to go home so badly.  I dreamt about it and thought about it all of the time.  But I couldn't bring myself to ask.  Partly pride.  Partly fear of rejection.  And a lot of shame and regret.  I will never ever forget that morning, though, that I called my mom and was trying so hard to chit chat but inside my heart was breaking, and somehow through all of the silly chatter she heard my silent pleas to come home.  And I will always be grateful to her for this... she didn't make me ask.  She asked me!  Do you want to come home?  The floodgates of my emotions opened and I could hardly answer through the crying.  Yes, yes, I want to come home!  I need to come home!!
We talked and she told me to go drop my classes (I was attending graduate school at the time) and to put my notice in at work.  So I did both things that day.  I put my two weeks in at work, dropped my classes, and started making plans for my return home.  The weight that had been lifted from my heart and mind was immeasurable.  I felt light and free and hopeful that the nightmare was going to end soon. 
I had no idea that my mom and dad had dropped everything and were on their way to pick me up that very day.  When I heard a knock on my door that night I was beyond shocked to see them and my little sister there!  I can't remember exactly but I think we packed up my life in like two days and they got me out of there for good.  I can remember driving my little car, packed with all my stuff, behind my dad and as I left that city I felt the life coming back into me.  I was still bruised and a little broken but I was feeling like I could breathe again.  I was going home.
I can't even tell you how grateful I am to my parents for the way they treated me.  It was such a beautiful picture of the prodigal son and his father.  The way they didn't wait for me to come home but came to get me and bring me home.  I really couldn't imagine that they would do that.  Not after the way I had hurt them.  They brought me home and let me rest and heal and didn't ask questions.  There were no "I told you so's" thrown at me and I deserved them.  They just let me be and I knew that I was loved and a part of the family.  It was unconditional love at its very best. 
After that, home meant even more to me because I knew what it was like to long for it. I appreciated everything about it and them.  And, today, with a child who is about to go out on her own path I pray that she will always know that she has a home to come home to no matter what may happen in her life.  We can never predict what is around the corner or how one choice can change the course of our lives, but we can create that safe place to return to when we need it. 
I can never talk about home without thinking of Heaven, our true home.  Right now we are all wandering and searching and messing up but there is a Father who is waiting to welcome us home.  He is running to us with arms open wide and asking us the question our heart longs to hear.
 Do you want to come home? 
Yes, yes, I want to come home!  I need to come home! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Freedom from People-Pleasing

Day 2
I want people to like me.  There, I said it.  Is it really such a bad thing to want others to like you, to find you attractive, to want to be around you, or to admire you?  Are these desires in and of themselves wrong?  Isn't it normal to have a desire to make those around you happy?  I believe the answers are no, it is not a bad thing, and yes, it is normal.  I haven't met a person yet who has told me that they really don't want people to like them and they try to make their friends and family as unhappy as possible.  (I have met people who do this without trying but I am assuming it is not on purpose.)
There are times when we have to do things to please others.  When we have a job we have to do the work that is required to the best of our ability so that we can please our boss.  In a marriage we should be striving to do the things that will please our spouse and bring them happiness.  As parents, we try to please our children and show them that we love and care for them.  In our friendships we go out of our way to be there for those we love and to let them know we value them.  In the body of Christ it is part of our responsibility as followers to love and serve people.  The Bible is full of examples of relationships where people were doing things to please others.  People like Miriam, Daniel, David and Jonathan, Isaac, Esther, and Ruth.  Jesus, himself, is the perfect example of someone who laid down his life for others.  Even the care and detail that God put into creating this world for us to live in shows us that He wanted to bring us pleasure and to see us happy.
Making others happy isn't bad.  Trying to please people is a good thing when it is done with the right motivation and perspective.  The problem is that our human nature has a way of taking something good and turning it into something completely different.  So, how do we know when our need to please people has gotten out of control and what do we do about it?
I think we can know we have a problem with people-pleasing if we look at what motivates our need to please.  Our motivations are key because they show us what is really in our hearts.  To be honest, it isn't always fun to look at our motivation because sometimes what we find isn't all that pretty. 
One question that really brings the truth to light is, "If no one ever knew that I did this for this person, would I still do it?".  This really shows where our true motivation lies.  Are we doing it to bring attention onto ourselves and to look good or are we truly doing it out of love?  It is so easy for pure motivations to spoil when we receive praise and admiration.  Suddenly, something that started as a true act of service becomes tainted because the accolades and attention it brings to us becomes the motivation.  The praise of people can become addictive and that is when we know that people- pleasing has become an idol in our lives.  The more we receive it, the more we seek it.  And the problem is, people are fickle... their expectations are always changing!   
I Thessalonians 2:4 talks about the desire to please people and the trust that God has in us to do things and say things that are pleasing to Him, not to please people.  And the scary thing is, we can't hide the truth from Him!  He sees our hearts.  He knows our motivations.  There is nowhere to hide our idols with God!  So, we have to examine ourselves and ask ourselves the tough questions.  Are we truly doing this for the praise of God or man?
If we find that people pleasing has become an idol in our lives, what do we do about it?  How do we change our motivations?  I believe we can do that by changing our perspective.  Who are we focused on- ourselves or God? (Because when we are trying to please people it is really about us and not them.) 
2 Corinthians 5:9 gives us this command, "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him."  If our perspective changes from being about ourselves and how others perceive us to pleasing God in everything we do, we will find that our people-pleasing changes to God-pleasing.  Our choices are no longer about how we will look to others, but how God will see us. 
The real test of our motivation and perspective will come when we have to make choices that will not please people but will please God.  It is easy to focus on pleasing God when He's asking you to do things that please Him and please people.  But when He asks you to make a decision that will bring you criticism from people who don't understand then it gets really complicated.  That is when you know whose approval you are truly seeking.  I have watched my husband, a pastor, have to do this many times and it is hard.  People don't know the whole truth and you have to do what is right, which isn't always popular or fun, but it is God-pleasing.  As his wife, I have sat back and worried about what people think and who is mad and wanted to set them straight, but when I do that I take my husband's perspective off of pleasing God and on to people, and that is wrong.  It is so hard to have the right perspective when God-pleasing choices aren't people-pleasing choices but God knows and, in the end, that is all that matters. 
So, has people-pleasing become an idol in your life?  Do you find yourself seeking the praise of people more than the pleasure of God?  Examine your motivations and your heart and bring your perspective back to one that is focused on pleasing God, not man.  It will make a world of difference in your state of mind and bring you a peace and joy that all the praise of man cannot even touch.  When you feel the pleasure of God pouring into your life, the praise of man is just a little added bonus as a gift from Him and the criticism only draws you closer to the One who really knows you.  You can't lose when you live a God-pleasing life!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Freedom from Comparison

Well, I've never done a link up before but I am trying to be more consistent in my blogging so it seemed like it might be what I need right now for a little motivation.  This one is sponsored by The Nester and is a challenge to blog for 31 days about the topic of your choosing.  As you can see from my cute little button at the top there, I will be posting on the topic of freedom.  I was considering all of the subjects I could spend my time and energy on and I realized that there was a common theme of the need for freedom in my life.  Whether it be freedom from something or to do something or  freedom to be something, I know that I can find the answers I am looking for if I take the time to search my heart and the Word.  So, here goes... I hope you will join me and I hope my journey will provide some inspiration for you too!

Comparison.  It has been an enemy of mine for so long.  It erodes my confidence, steals my joy, disrupts my peace, and destroys my relationships.  But, most importantly, it diminishes my calling.  I know that God has created and called me to do certain things in this world and I let comparison get in the way of fulfilling my mission.  It is so sad and it really terrifies me that I could let it defeat me and get the best of me.  And I will never know the satisfaction of completing my assignment here and doing it well.

It can be so tiring... comparing our parenting styles, our life choices, our appearances, our postions, our incomes, our giving... it goes on and on and on.  Before we know it, comparison has robbed us of ourselves.  We are so busy looking at others and what they have that we forget who we are and what we have.  And then we think... maybe that other person would be better at what we know God has called us to do.  So, we don't trust His judgement and we make our own decision that someone else should do it.  Someone else who could do it better. 

What about the opposite side of comparison?  The one where we look at ourselves and look at others and think more highly of ourselves than we should.  We look for people who make us look good and we use them.  We think we can do everything right and step in and over people to do it our way.  And in the process, we make ourselves little in God's eyes and we steal someone else's calling. 

Comparison.  It kills.  It destroys.  Why do we do it?

"For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn't everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what's the point of all this comparing and competing?" 
I Corinthians 4:7

Maybe the secret to escaping the comparison trap is to realize that anything that is good about me is a gift from God.  I didn't do it on my own.  I didn't create it.  It is a gift.  As simple as that.  So, maybe instead of comparing myself to others I should be filled with gratitude for what He has given to me.  I should protect it, groom it, and use it.  And when I look at others, I can be grateful for what He has given them and I can take joy in watching others use their gifts for their calling.  I am the only one who truly knows my heart, after all.  And when I look at myself I want to see me, not an image of someone else, but me.  The me God created for His glory and His purpose. For I am fearfully and wonderfully made...just the way I am!