Posted in My Thoughts

A fear of failure becomes its own prophecy

Last week I shared a post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) that said…

Yes, I have been living in recovery and survival mode for the past 2 1/2 years. Yes, things are beginning to change and I’m ready to start moving forward into the future rather than still just trying to recover from the past and survive the moment. Yes, I have hopes and dreams again, and it’s exciting!

And yes, it is also very scary.

It’s scary because what if….WHAT IF…I have to deal with a major hurt again, or I fail miserably with regards to what my new hopes and dreams are. I’ve experienced my life falling apart, things not working out like I had thought, and being hurt beyond what I could have imagined, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of that happening again.

What if I put myself out there and I am rejected again?

What if I step out in faith and it feels like the bottom falls out from underneath me?

What if I want something and go for it, and I don’t get it?

What if I have a dream or hope or desire, and I can’t obtain it like I want to?

What if I get hurt?

What if I fail?

 

Fear is a very powerful force. It will cause us to freeze in moments where we know we need to move. It will keep us from trying something new, from dreaming again after experiencing a failed dream, from loving again after being rejected, or from imagining a better life than present circumstances because we can’t see what it might look like.

We don’t want to fail. We don’t like to fail. So we easily become afraid of failure. And we begin to develop a fear of failure.

The ironic thing about the fear of failure is that it becomes its own prophecy.

When we allow our self to be afraid of failure, we often end up not trying at all. And thus we end up failing…failing to accomplish something new, of gaining something better, seeing something greater, and moving into a future that is different from the present.

We end up avoiding any kind of success or blessing in our life, and we remain stuck in the moment. We actually end up failing to succeed or move into something better. We fail to get what we want or even need because we were too afraid to try.

God uses moments that hurt us and times that we fail to grow us and prepare us for what is coming next. He uses what seems bad to bring about something good. Yes, pain and failure are not fun, but it’s not something to fear.

If God uses moments that hurt us and times that we fail to grow us and prepare us for what is coming next, then we can begin to replace our fears with faith and trust. We can trust that God has a plan that is bigger than our current pain and failure, and we can have faith that as we continue to move forward, God will guide and direct us.

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) (click here for a very good/challenging brief message about this verse)

 

Instead of asking “What if” questions about how we could get hurt again or fail again, we should ask ourselves what we may be missing out on if we allow our fear to dictate our actions.

What if I miss out on some amazing blessing the Lord has for me?

What if I miss out on an incredible experience?

What if God leads me into something so much better than I even expected?

What if joy and peace and comfort could be mine, but I don’t obtain them because I was afraid to take the necessary steps?

What if God wants to teach me something and I miss the lesson?

What if I succeed?

 

May we learn to be brave when facing the possibility of pain and failure…and may we not allow fear to keep us from still trusting God and living by faith. May we understand that being brave doesn’t mean there will always be an absence of fear, but rather it means being willing to still move forward even in the presence of fear. May we realize that God is using our pain and failure for our good, so we don’t need to fear. And may we choose to not allow fear to cause us to miss out on the successes and blessings we can experience.

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Posted in Media

All things happen to God’s people

Today I was watching a message by Pastor Toby Slough, who is at Cross Timbers Church in Texas. In his message, which was from Exodus 1 and 2 when Israel was enslaved, he shared the very popular verse Romans 8:28.

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.

He then proceeded to share a very powerful truth about that verse. If God works all things for good, then that means all things happen to God’s people. Watch the segment of his message about Romans 8:28 below. (the full message can be found at https://vimeo.com/253031990)

This was a truth I needed to hear. I know God works in all things, and I know that God allows difficult things to happen. But often I still wonder why God allowed all that he did to happen in my life…or why after 2 1/2 years am I still struggling to recover financially from all that was done to me…or why I was made to suffer this way when it wasn’t my choice to begin with. I must admit that I’ve asked God why, when I was serving him, did he let so many bad things happen to me.

This explanation of Romans 8:28, and the truth that my circumstances are not an indication of God’s love and involvement in my life, was just what I needed to hear.

Posted in My Thoughts

God’s dreams for my future VS my dreams from my past

A few days ago I wrote a blog called “Approaching the New Year (and life) with Intentionality“. In that blog I talked about the idea of picking a word for the year, a word to claim that would give you guidance and focus for the coming year.

I have actually chosen 2 words for myself for this year: Change and Bold.

My life has gone through many very difficult and unwanted changes the past couple of years, and up to this point I’ve been focusing more on surviving the changes than I have on trying to be in a place I can begin to move forward. Things have started to move forward, and it’s been exciting, but I’ve still been very much focused on surviving all the fall-out and damage from the past difficult changes as well. However, I’ve been sensing that this year God is preparing some new and exciting things for my future…he is preparing me for more changes that are coming.

That’s where my second word comes into play. It is a good reminder for me to approach whatever new and exciting things may come with boldness…after the kind of changes I was forced to go through, it is easy to become timid and scared of change, so I need to remember to be bold.

 

Today, in a conversation I was having concerning my future, I admitted that I have not yet been able to let go of some of the dreams from my past. When my life was turned upside down and I went through a lot of very difficult changes, many dreams of mine died. Some of those things I have been able to work through and begin to heal from, but others I’m still trying to figure out how to work through.

Last week I was talking with a missions organization, and I was posed the question “what would your dream job look like?” I knew the answer right away…it would look like my job at my last church. I absolutely loved my job when I worked at Calvary Bible Church; the Student Ministry there was amazing, I loved all the opportunities I was given to preach and speak, and getting to organize and go on mission trips each year was amazing. I loved that job. And to be really honest, I’ve struggled to let it go. It is very hard for me to still wish I had what I did in that job.

In my conversation today, as I admitted and shared that fact, I was challenged with a truth that I needed to hear…

God’s dreams for your future are different than your dreams from your past. His dreams are better than your dreams. It is time to let go of the dreams from your past so that God can do a new thing in your future. 

While I needed to hear that, it was hard to hear; it still hurts to think of letting my past dreams die, and I know I won’t  happen overnight either. My job at CBC was my dream job, and it still hurts a lot to have lost it. So I definitely needed to hear that truth!

God has a plan for my future. And if he allowed my past dreams to be taken from me, it’s because he has dreams for my future that are better than my past dreams. So while it’s painful, and even though I don’t see exactly what those future dreams are yet, I need to work to let my past go and trust him for my future.

 

As it says in Isaiah 43:18-19…

Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

I can’t continue to focus on the past. I have to learn to let it go. My focus must be on the truth that God is in the process of doing a new thing. What exactly does my future hold or look like? What are the new things that he is doing? I don’t know. But even though I don’t know, I can trust that God has a better dream and plan for my future than I had in my past.

Letting go of past dreams can be hard, especially when they were good dreams and they were taken from you. It can also be hard to let go of bad memories from the past as well, because it is easy to let painful experiences from our past determine our actions and reactions now. But to remain focused on the past will only keep us from moving forward into the future that God has for us, a future where he is doing something new.

So, may we learn to not focus on the past, good or bad. May we learn to let the past go, and may we instead learn to focus on where God is leading us next.

Posted in My Thoughts

Approaching the New Year (and life) with Intentionality

It can be easy to live our lives mostly out of reaction to what happens or comes our way. And while that is not necessarily all bad…there are so many things we can’t control in this life that we do have to learn how to react well to…we also need to learn to approach life with intentionality; to have a plan, set goals, and seek to be purposeful.

Plans and goals don’t always work out the way we want them to, because again there is so much in life that we can’t control. BUT, when we make plans and we set goals and we seek to be purposeful, we are living our lives with intentionality. Doing that gives us focus and purpose, keeps us on track when we might want to get off track, and even helps us better navigate the changes that life brings our way.

Now that we are in a new year, you hear a lot about the idea of “new year’s resolutions”, trying new things, and moving forward into what the future holds. Entering a new year brings this kind of thinking out in our society, and we should take advantage of that in our own lives by seeking to approach this coming year with intentionality.

Here are a few suggestions for how to go about approaching this new year with intentionality…

  • Pick a word for the year. A word that will give you guidance and focus. For example, CHOICE. Picking a word like this provides a constant reminder that what we do in this life involves choice; who we hang out with, where we go, what we do, how we react, etc. It is also a word that can encourage us to seek to make the right choice in all circumstances.
  • After picking a word, choose some key scripture verses/passages to go with your word. This takes the word you chose beyond just being a good word…it gives it a spiritual focus as well. It helps you to be focused on God’s Word in your life. For the word CHOICE, some verse ideas could be: Joshua 24:15, Matthew 4:19-20, and Colossians 3:2. The verse doesn’t have to include the word itself, but it should encompass the idea of the word.
  • Write out a list of goals, dreams, and plans for this coming year. Make sure to write things that you will be able to accomplish or keep track of fairly easily, so that you will have victories to celebrate. BUT, also think big and write some things that will challenge you and require you to trust God in ways you may have not had to before. Also, remember that it’s ok to not accomplish everything, or to allow some of your goals, dreams, and plans to change during the year…life happens, and we must learn to give ourselves grace as well as be flexible to make adjustments.
  • Find a friend who you can share what you wrote down with. That friend should be someone you trust, be someone who continually encourages you throughout the year to stay focused, prays for you, and will even help you as you need.
  • One other idea that some might like and some might not: Pick a “theme song”. A song that really speaks to your heart, causes you to worship the Lord, and is a good reminder of your word and it’s focus. Music speaks to us in a powerful way, which is why picking a song can be a good piece to this.

During the year, keep track of all you wrote down, what was accomplished and happened, and what you’ve learned. At the end of the year, look at what you wrote down celebrate the past year’s accomplishments and lessons learned. Don’t just record or celebrate only the good either…not all life is positive, but we can still learn from difficult times and even celebrate what we made it through and how God gave us the strength in hard times. And then use that to begin looking forward to being intentional for the next coming year.

Let’s learn to live our lives with intentionality. Let’s not just live in reaction to what comes our way (yes, it is good to learn how to react well…I’m not saying neglect that part), but rather let’s dare to dream and plan and create goals for ourselves. Let’s live with purpose…let’s live with intentionality!

 

I’d love to hear other ideas for being intentional. Feel free to comment with other ideas you have.

Posted in My Thoughts

Overwhelmed

If you follow me on social media at all, you’ve seen that the past few days I’ve posted some pictures and updates about my upcoming move. Tomorrow is that day. This week I’ve been taking smaller items and boxes that can fit in my car to the house, and tomorrow (Saturday, December 9th) all my furniture and anything else that has not been moved there will be taken to my new house, and I will officially begin living there.

This week, the idea of the move has been overwhelming. A few days ago I was unpacking dishes and putting them in the cabinets in the kitchen, and I sent a text to a friend about how there is more cabinet space than dishes I have to fill them…the space is overwhelming. As I’ve moved things to the house and made decisions on what furniture would go into what room, I felt so overwhelmed with how much space this house has…and how little furniture I have to fill it. Last Sunday my kids and I had our first meal in the house, we prayed to thank God for blessing us with this house, and then they picked their rooms and made signs for their doors. It was a great day, and very overwhelming.

It is all overwhelming because for 2 years I’ve lived in small spaces. I briefly had a small 1 bedroom apartment, and the rest of the time I’ve lived with different people who allowed me to stay in  a room in their house. I’ve grown accustomed to having very little furniture and living in a small space. When my kids came to stay with me, they would all sleep in the same room, because it was the only room I had for them. And now, this house I’m moving into has a kitchen with more cabinets than I can fill, more rooms than I have furniture for, and enough bedrooms that the kids can have their own rooms (Hope and Kate chose to share a room).

Overwhelmed

Today as I was making a couple trips to the house with more boxes and smaller items, I began to think back over the past 2 years. To be honest, my life today looks absolutely nothing like I expected it to look like just a few years ago. A few years ago, I was married with 4 children, living in a nice house with my family, working in a ministry I loved, and honestly just enjoying my life, thinking I had it all.

And then 2 1/2 years ago my world began to come crashing down as I discovered I was about to lose it all. After months of doing everything I could to try and hold it all together, my biggest fears happened. I lost my marriage, lost the ability to see my kids everyday, lost getting to live with my family, and lost the ministry I loved. My world came crashing down hard, and I was broken. It was all very overwhelming!

For 2 years since all of that happened, I have been wondering what my future would look like. What would it be like to live in my own house again, what would being in ministry again be like, and even the idea of what a future relationship might look like. Just thinking about it all and not knowing when or how it would happen, as well as still questioning at times why I was in this place to begin with, would just get overwhelming to think about.

Then, after a long time of waiting and wondering, God began to lead me into my future. 4 months ago I began working in ministry again. It started off a bit rocky, but I quickly settled into doing what God has given me a passion to do again. What a blessing that was!

And then, I was offered the church parsonage…a house! A house I can call home. Where my kids can come and spread out and we can be a family in our own space. What an incredible blessing!

I’m overwhelmed by God’s blessings! And excited for the future that God is leading me into!

BUT

I have also come to realize that God never stopped blessing me and taking care of me during the 2 years prior to this.

  • For 2 years I have not been able to afford a place to stay, yet I have not been homeless even one day.
  • For 2 years I have struggled to make ends meet, yet I’ve always had food to eat, gas money, jobs to make money, and several people have been generous to me through financial gifts.
  • For 2 years I have had Christian brothers and sisters take care of me, provide for me, help me, and be there for me in ways I didn’t even realize I would need.
  • During those 2 years, men stepped up to disciple me and council me through the darkest days I have ever experienced…sometimes days that were so dark I just wanted to give up on everything.

For 2 years as I wondered why my world had fallen apart, God was working in my life to teach me, equip me, restore me, and prepare me for the future he had in store. And while the past 2 years have been by far the hardest I’ve ever experienced, the truth is God was blessing me the whole time while preparing me for my future. God has had a plan for me all along, and he has continued to bring that plan to fruition while walking with me on the journey.

SO OVERWHELMED!

So as I begin to step into what God has next for me, I would be remiss if I did not also remember how God blessed me and took care of me during the past 2 years.

  • to all who provided me a place to live
  • to all who helped me with financial gifts so I could continue to cover basic needs
  • to all who have provided me with a job
  • to all who provided a listening ear for me to talk to
  • to all who reached out to me and my children
  • to all who challenged me to live for God even when I was struggling in my faith
  • to all from my former church who continued to stay connected to me and my children
  • to all from my new church family who have made me and my children feel loved and accepted
  • to all the new people I have met through different circumstances and for different reasons over the past 2 years that I probably would not have met had I not been in this position
  • and to all of those from my childhood whom I have since reconnected with during this time

I will never be able to say thank you enough for allowing God to use you in my life to be a blessing. God has truly been good to me by bringing each of you into my life, and I am beyond thankful. God has used you to teach me what he wanted me to learn through this, and to bless me as he carried me through the storm.

As I move into the future God has for me, I look forward to seeing what God will do next. I have learned through all of this that I can never imagine what God has in store, but if I just seek to follow where he leads, he will continue to lead me step by step in the direction he wants me to go. It might not be what I expect…but after watching God provide and care for and bless me during these past 2 years, I know that wherever he may lead, he will be there with me for each step of the journey. And after the past 2 years, I’ve learned that if it’s God’s plan, I want to be a part of it…and if it’s not God’s plan, I don’t want to waste my time.

God’s blessings are truly overwhelming!

Posted in Bible Study

Feeling stuck?

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck? Like you’re stuck in a season of life that you want out of but you can’t seem to get out of? Stuck having the details of something painful replay in your mind over and over, and you can’t seem to escape it? It’s as if your legs are stuck in thick mud or clay…you’re trying and trying to get free, but little progress seems to be happening? You’ve cried out to God over and over, asking for help…but you’re still stuck. Ever feel that way?

That is exactly how I’ve been feeling for a while now.

When I first lost my marriage and job a couple years ago, I was just focused on recovering and healing from the pain of being rejected by the person I had loved and chosen to spend my life with, as well as losing a job that I was passionate about and thoroughly enjoyed. For the first year, my focus was just on allowing myself to heal from it all. I wasn’t thinking about what the future held or how to move forward, I was just focusing on surviving a day at a time.

After a year or so of that, as God began to bring healing to my heart and mind, I began to think about the future and what it would look like for me. I started praying for more than continued grace and healing for both me and my children (who unfortunately also have to learn to live in this new reality), which is what my prayer life had been focused on up to that point. As I began to look forward to my future, I began to pray for that future; prayers for getting back into ministry, being able to be financial stable again, paying off debt that I’d accrued from the divorce, getting my confidence back (it’s amazing how rejection like this can take all confidence from you), being able to not have my mind be overrun at times with the pain of what happened, and so on.

But, after a long time praying for those things, most of them have still not happened. Yes, I’m back in ministry…God answered that prayer a couple of months ago! But I’m still stuck in debt, struggling with finances, working to get my confidence back, and honestly there are days my mind is still overrun with the painful memories. Recently, I was struggling so much with the pain of it all that I just decided to go to bed really early, so I could end the day and not think about things anymore.

I still feel very much stuck.

A few days ago, I decided to look up different verses/passages in scripture that talk about patience. I am definitely struggling with patience, but I also know I need to be patient as I wait for God to lead me into a future. If I continue to try and work out of things myself, struggling with all my might to get unstuck, I’m going to just exhaust myself.

Yesterday, I read Psalm 40:1-4

I waited patiently for the Lordhe inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LordBlessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

In this passage, a few truths stuck out to me that I needed to be reminded of…

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined and heard my cry.” – The Lord heard the author’s cry for help…but he didn’t respond immediately. The author of this psalm starts by saying they ‘waited patiently’.

When we are crying out to God and not getting the answer we want when we want, it is so easy to get impatient and feel as though God isn’t listening. God hears our cries…we just have to learn to wait patiently for God to respond. How long do we wait? Until he responds. His timing is perfect…we don’t like to wait and may not understand his timing, but it is perfect and we just need to continue to be patient.

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” – The author definitely felt stuck. They even give a pretty strong description…pit of destruction. That’s strong language to describe a very difficult and overwhelming feeling of being stuck. But, the author also says that God drew them out of that place of being overwhelmingly stuck, and set them on a rock…a place that is solid and secure.

When we are stuck, it’s so hard to see or even imagine not being stuck again. It can get so overwhelming that seeing a future that’s different than the present is so hard to do or believe will happen. But God is so much more powerful than even the most difficult of circumstances, and he can draw us out of any pit and place us on solid ground again. While we are in the pit and feeling overwhelmed, we just need to keep our focus on the truth that someday we won’t be stuck anymore, because God will draw us up and out.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” – A new song implies that there was a song before this new one. Perhaps the author had been complaining a lot to God, or singing a “woe is me” type of song as they were stuck. But when God showed up and drew them out of the pit, he also put a new song in the mouth of the author…a song of praise.

It can sometimes be so hard to not complain when we are in the midst of being stuck, down in that pit we so desperately want out of. And if we aren’t careful, our complaining or “woe is me” attitude can overtake our heart and what comes out of our mouths. But when God draws us out of the pit, we see such a contrast from where we were to where God has put us, that we can’t help but praise him! Perhaps that’s part of the reason he waits to draw us out, so that we properly appreciate all that he does for us when he does draw us out.

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” – The author realizes that, through their struggle and having to wait patiently on God to respond, it is the one who continues to trust in God even while in the midst of the struggle that will be blessed.

It is so easy to place our trust in man made ways of trying to fix our struggle or deal with our situation. There’s so many different voices in this world that say “do this” or “do that”, and honestly we begin to be tempted to follow after those ideas rather than wait on God…because we get impatient. Trust requires patience. Trust that God will eventually answer and draw us out, trust that God’s timing and plan is better than our ideas, and trust that God hasn’t abandoned us in the pit.

When we feel stuck, overwhelmingly stuck, and unable to see any way out, may we continue to wait patiently on God to respond at just the right time, knowing that his timing is perfect. May we remember to trust him, even when we are struggling so much that it takes all of our energy and strength to do so…because it is the one who trusts in the Lord that will be blessed.