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Monday, January 11, 2016

Truth in 2016 - One Word 365

I enjoyed doing the 'One Word Focus' last year in lieu of any resolutions.  Last year I chose "Fearless," and learned much about myself in the process. This year I am choosing to focus on the word: Truth.

As I explained in my last post about addressing fears, I realized that I needed to embrace the truth about situations in order to stand firmly on faith.  The Bible teaches quite a lot about the truth, but my favorite verse on the topic has to be John 8:31-32:

IF we hold to His teachings, abide in His word, learn them, believe them, apply them, THEN we will know the Truth, and the Truth will set us FREE! That's amazing!

Jesus IS the way, the truth, and the life. I know that on this journey, I must only draw closer to Him if I want to uncover the truth about anything. (John 14:6)

My focus on truth is mostly centered around becoming more aware of the lies I believe about myself, the lies I believe about God, the world, and other people, and the lies I tell that may seem 'harmless' or 'insignificant' or even are not lies in the telling, but lies because I do not tell.

I want to uncover the parts of my life that have been hidden for too long, because I buried, neglected, or felt ashamed of the truth.  I lied to myself when I believed I should not share the testimony of my past with others, because I was ashamed of different parts, or afraid of what others may think of me. God has redeemed me, called me his own, and my past can be used to share His glory.  There is no better way to be free from bondage, than by speaking the truth.

I want to learn how to immediately identify lies the enemy tells me based on Scripture and who I know God to be. I know some of these lies I encounter on a daily basis:
"You aren't worthy of love."
"You are too _____(varies with what I am struggling with - fat, lazy, forgetful, etc) to be loved unconditionally."
"You will never be enough."
"You are not a good _____(varies - in all the roles I have - wife, mother, daughter, ministry partner, friend, etc) and never will be." (John 8:44)

I know these are lies, from the 'father of lies' - but I want to more quickly fire back with the truth - the Word - the sword, to cut through them. I know God's Word tells me He loves me so much He gave His son to die for me, while I was still a sinner. I know God's word tells me that I am saved by grace through faith, not of my own work, so there is nothing I can do to be 'enough.' I already am, because of Jesus. I know that I am in each life role for a specific reason, at this specific time, and God is using each role to refine me, and each person to shape me into being more Christ-like, and I am the exact person He wants for that role.  I am going to put more specific scripture up in my home to help me memorize and fight those lies.

I want to learn how to constantly tell the truth in love and not be ashamed of my true feelings, or afraid of conflict, but to kindly share the truth with grace at all times. I want to be able to set honest, clear boundaries with others that are true to my own heart. People pleasing is tough, and not wanting to cause conflict is tough, and both cause us to tell little lies. "Can you do ___ for me?" Truth: That's not a good time, it will be very inconvenient, and I'd rather not. What I say: "Sure!" which is another way I lie. Or "Does it bother you when ___?" Truth: Yes, yes it does, and I wish you'd stop it. What I say: "No, I hadn't noticed it." I want to become better at voicing my truth in love, and not worrying about what others think. (Ephesians 4:15, Proverbs 12:22)

I want to be better at choosing the most true-to-me activity for my time. I will often lie to myself and act as though social media or television is relaxing and good for my spirit. The truth is that I feel much more alive and at peace after reading, writing, coloring, hand-lettering, exercising, spending time outdoors, with friends, or soaking in a bubble bath. I want to choose things that truthfully make me come alive, not the things that just scratch the surface. I want to stop lying to myself and letting those things that are 'easy' be done in the name of recreation, when they are not the true ways I unwind.

I am looking so forward to embracing truth in 2016! Do you have a one word focus?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fearless Reflections

For 2015, I decided my "One Word" focus was "Fearless."  The original post I made about is here, Fearless in '15, which is where you should begin now, if you haven't read it yet, or in a while, like a year maybe. ;)

I feel I owe that focus word a wrap up, before I begin the word for 2016. 

I was given the opportunity to rehash all of the fears I discussed in the original post, plus many more, over the course of 2015. I learned a lot about myself, as I tried to sort through "What is it that I fear, right now?" At the beginning of the year, and as I stated, I believed the opposite of fear, was faith. However, the more the year wore on, and I began to dissect my fears and rationalize their causes, I found that all fears are based on a lie or over-exaggeration of some sort. So, to me, the opposite of fear is actually accepting the truth, processing my feelings that go along with the truth, before I can say in faith "God's got this, no matter what."  My word for 2016 is going to be truth.  More on that, later. 

I became pregnant again, at a time when John and I were both far more interested in adoption than in having another belly baby.  We had discussed another pregnancy, but had firmly put it the "Maybe in a few months to a year from now" category, with a generous helping of, "We want a Spring/Summer baby again, not another Winter baby when we fear germs."
A week before we found out we were pregnant.

Then, the day after Jonah turned 3, I realized I was a few days 'late' and decided to just double check with a little at home test, that came back glaringly positive. Due date: January 20th, three days after Karis' birthday.  A Winter baby again, kids barely two years apart. This is mentally/emotionally what it looked like for me to process my fears:

Fear: We are not capable of handling a third child this close to the other two in age. One, or all 3 kids, will have serious psychological issues from our lack of competent parenting. 

Truth: We may not be very good parents. However, God will give us the grace we need to survive this season, and will help our children to overcome anything negative we impart to them. We will pray and read Scripture, and try our darnedest to be Godly parents who point their kids back to Christ, don't yell, don't discipline in anger, feed them a good amount of vegetables, and make sure they sleep enough, but at the end of the day, it is Jesus we want them to cling tightly to, not us anyways.

Faith: We do have to have faith that God will work all of it out - but we have to accept the truth, that even if we 'fail,' God is big enough to 'fix' them. It is not my job to be so afraid of making mistakes with my kids that I forget to enjoy life with them.

Fear: Another baby in late January means all the hand sanitizer, staying at home, avoiding social gatherings, wondering if people have had their TDAP vaccination, and praying for no flu or other big viruses to attack the house while baby has an immature immune system.  The baby could get sick and die. 

Truth: Newborns do get sick and die. People are careless with their hand washing, germ spreading, anti-vaccinating beliefs, and our baby could die. However, she was never ours to begin with. Our children are a gift from God for whatever amount of time He deems reasonable. I will mourn the rest of my life if I ever lose a child, and I will have to seek lots of counseling and grace in order to continue to function, but I would hold tightly to the hope that I would hold that child in heaven, and in all of eternity.  That is still a sad and scary truth, but accepting it is better than becoming a hostage to it. Just typing it feels kind of wrong, and very scary, like its a more real possibility, which just drives me to more fervent prayer.

Faith: Knowing that God says he has a plan for me, and He has a plan for my children, and praying "God, your will be done, and please let it be a lifetime of loving all my kids here on earth." I can protect her as much as I can, but it is not my job to be stressed and worried constantly about her health. 
It's a GIRL!

Josie Faith

Fear: We will never have the opportunity or resources to be able to adopt. 

Truth: It may be several more years down the road before we feel competent enough to add another small human to our household, but waiting does not mean that it won't happen.

Faith: If God continues to want us to adopt, He will provide the resources and funds needed when He is ready for our family to grow again. It is not my job to worry about when or how it will happen. 

We also felt the unmistakeable call to change jobs/states/cities again last year.  If moving doesn't scare you a little bit, you might be crazy.  I've spent my entire life moving, and that's part of why I hate it.  I am great at adjusting to new things, places, and people, because I have had to live in a state of constant change.  This was a move from a large, more traditional church, to a much smaller, very Contemporary church.  This was also a move from a city 4 hours away from family, back to living less than half an hour from each of our parents.  There have been several moments of Fear/Truth/Faith processing that went along with that move in September, and are still happening.

I did decide to participate in Dressember again this year, and was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed by having a team of 11 ladies join me! I would have never set such high fundraising goals by myself, out of fear that I would not reach it, but as a team I felt we could accomplish more, and holy smokes, batman, generous people and God really showed up! Instead of posting weekly about that, you can feel free to check out my Instagram or Facebook page for how that went, wearing dresses the entire 8th month of pregnancy. ;) These were my favorite pictures from the month:

This was my final post about it yesterday:

Grocery shopping with children under 4 deserves some sort of medal (or beverage - coffee, of course) . However, it is MUCH easier in comfy jeans than in a dress! Dressember is over and January is here with so many fresh beginnings and hopes. I want to admit that I am overwhelmed and in awe when I think about how many big anonymous givers we had this year. It makes it harder to thank individuals, but easier to say "Wow, God" 
About half way through the month, when we were far less than half-way to our team goal, I confessed to my husband that I was concerned we weren't going to meet our goal. He reassured me that any amount was better than nothing, and I should be grateful whether we reached our goal or not, because our efforts had brought some donations. However, I wasn't satisfied. I searched my heart, cleared out any selfish ambition and made sure I was in this for God's glory only, the freedom of captives, and not one bit about myself. I began earnestly praying that we would at least meet our team goal, if not exceed it. Then something amazing happened. We DID! Varying sizes of small and large named and anonymous donations began flooding in toward the end of the month. I was so shocked and excited because it's not about the money, but the lives that can be changed and restored with each dollar! YOU helped to make that happen, and I am eternally grateful. The Dressember foundation is accepting donations that will still count toward IJM and A21 until the end of January, if you feel led to give toward freedom. Just because we surpassed our goal, doesn't mean the organizations that receive this money are now fully funded- every single time someone is set free, it takes money, so they still need it! I raised under $700 last year. This year, as a team of 11, our goal was $2500- and thanks to the generosity of many, we are currently at $3557! All praise goes to God! Thankful once again for answered prayers.
I would not say that I 'conquered' fear in 2015, but I sure did become far more aware of it in my own heart and mind, and begin to address it, process it, and turn to faith more often.  I have also been reading the book lately, "The Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You Have to Quit to Change Your Life." It is an easy read, but is ground breaking on how to handle, process, and deal with fear and all sorts of other issues, in a Biblically healthy way! It has helped to uncover many fear/truth/faith moments I had not realized I was just shoving away/denying.  I VERY HIGHLY recommend this for any woman, regardless of whether you think you struggle with any fear issues at all. It encompasses so much more than that!

How did your 2015 "One Word" go? Was it what you expected? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!