Little Girl Dreams

From the time I was a very young girl, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up…a woman, a lovely, feminine woman.  For me that included being a wife and mother and the keeper of the home.  Everything about womanhood fascinated me.  A true girlie girl, I love lipstick and hairstyles and all the trimmin’s.  “How boring it must be to be a man,” I thought, because they were so limited in how they could look or dress.  And they can never feel the miracle of a new little life growing inside them!  Oh, yes, I was very happy God had made me female.

Did you know, dear sister, that if you are married, God already had a ministry planned for you when He knitted you together in your mother’s womb?  Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  From Stasi and John Eldredge’s book  “Captivating,” I learned that “helper” is a weak translation of the original language. The word is “ezer,” which means lifesaver or life sustainer.  It is the very word that is used when the Holy Spirit is described as our helper.

I know we’ve all heard the jokes that we are not our husbands’ Holy Spirit, and we’re not.  But that’s how strong the role of helper is as a wife.  Our husbands won’t be all that God intended for them to be without we wives being true helpers, or life sustainers.  And we will not be all that God intended us to be if we forsake this calling, for in doing so we honor Christ and bring glory to God.

But back to my girlhood dream.  I lived it when my children were very young.  Then when they were 7, 5, and 3, I was pushed out of the nest to go to court-reporting school.  It wasn’t my idea, but I submitted to it.  The idea was that it was something that could be flexible, working freelance, and I would not have to be gone eight to five while making a supplemental income. We had no debt except a house payment, but money was very tight.  It would be a great career if I had limited it in that way.  Instead…..

I excelled in school, graduated in two years, and  hit the ground running.  It was like a switch was turned on in this stay-at-home mom who had breast-fed, used cloth diapers, and cooked dinner every night from scratch.  I became highly competitive, driven, a self-absorbed workaholic. A new car was purchased. The 965-square-foot house I had been perfectly content in was replaced with one much larger.  Adding in the school loans, I was tied to making a “quota” every month to pay debt.  I was exhausted, working night and day, having chronic insomnia so badly that I struggled to stay awake on the job.

It took about two years for complete burnout to set in, but now I was trapped.  I remember laying prostrate in my living room floor and confessing to God that I had gotten myself into a mess, and He was the only one who could get me out.  My mentor at that time told me to envision what I wanted my life to be as I prayed and waited upon God.  As I did this, the eyes of my heart began to see the soft woman I truly was, letting go of the false identity I had assumed.  You can know you’ve taken on a false identity by the fruit it produces.  Remember this:  The enemy drives; God gently leads.  I  repented and trusted that somehow God would bring me through.

The Lord did change my circumstances, but it was not overnight.  I had become the main bread winner, and there was now debt to cover.  God had to do a work in my marriage so that we were on the same page.  But I was able to cut back to a normal work week and then eventually to part time until my children were older. I wonder what my life would have looked like if I had made a different choice, if I had helped work out another solution to the tight income or, once having graduated, never worked more than was needed.  What difference would that have made in the lives of my children and in my own heart?

When I was thrust into the world of dressing up, driving all over the state, working with attorneys and witnessing so much, well, worldliness, I lost something tender in my heart.  My mind was filled with pleasing other people, with deadlines, with looking as good as possible so as to be accepted professionally.  I’m going to make a bold statement here:  When we take on a false identity, assuming a masculine role, we can become hardened.  And when we are hardened, we are easily broken.  That’s what happened to me.

Does that mean a woman isn’t strong?  No, it doesn’t.  Married or single,  a woman’s strength is best displayed in her relationships with her family, friends, and in whatever ministry that the Lord shows her. She has the strength to stand with and affirm her husband no matter what the circumstances of life bring.  In addition to life sustainer, she is a life giver.  A woman perceives the needs of hearts.  She can give a word or a touch that brings life to the hurting.  She will birth many “spiritual” children as she gives her heart in relationship and on her knees in intercession.

I now have no children in the nest, but my desire hasn’t changed.  I still want to be a lovely, feminine woman.  I still love lipstick and hairstyles; only now I need some help covering the gray.  I want to bring glory to God by being my husband’s helper.  My heart still wants to nurture my children and now my grandchildren.  But most of all, my heart yearns to be the woman God made me to be–yes, His original design.  I am still seeking Him for that, but I can see a glimpse of her now, and she IS lovely and feminine. Thank you, Father, for making me female, for making me your woman.  That is my true identity.

 

 

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Seeds of Discontent

 

I have a confession to make.  I have repented, but it seems I can’t write about anything else until I ‘fess up to my readers.  Last week I came under a horrible attack.  Our ministry takes place in our home, which is sometimes a little overwhelming for me, being the little potted plant that I am.  I used to sit with my husband as he ministered, to pray and for propriety’s sake, as the majority of people seeking help have been women, although that is changing.

It was very hard for me to sit on the sofa and listen for long periods of time.  I’d do my best and be okay for a while; but inevitably, the meltdown would come.  I’d feel guilty and pray, “Lord, please make me into the helper Mark needs.”  This went on for the better part of two years.  Mark had told me that maybe God wasn’t answering that prayer because I didn’t need to change, that I was already the helper he needed.  All he has ever wanted is my support.

Then I began to correspond with Rita Allbright, the wife of Joe Allbright, who is Mark’s mentor and with whom we received training for the broken soul ministry.  They have worked as a team ministering out of their home for 30 years.  When I asked her about her role, she told me she never sits in on the counseling sessions because that is not her gift.  She is in the house, doing administrative tasks in her office, doing housework, and even took care of a grandchild after school in her home.  She advised me that the enemy will try to place me in a position where I’m not flowing in the spiritual gifts God has given me.

Let me tell you, that was a huge relief!  We made one of our spare bedrooms into a little study for me.  It’s decorated beautifully, with the added bonus of having windows that face our flower garden, lawn swing, and a beautiful crepe myrtle.  I can have my quiet time in this room, pray, write, pay bills, scrapbook, and get my much-needed solitude.  I just keep the door open so I can hear the counseling session and come out to fix lunch and chat with the ladies that come.  But soon that wasn’t enough.  I wanted to have the whole house to myself.  I begin to resent the fact that I didn’t have “my space.”  I began to feel that something had been “taken” from me.  In short, I wanted to have things my way, which is saying, “I will be my own god.”

I’m not going to describe the downhill spiral that ensued over those three days.  But I will tell you that it wasn’t pretty.  I was saying things that I knew in my heart I didn’t really feel.  I was highly emotional and feeling intense pain.  It was only when the Holy Spirit spoke through Mark and told me the truth about what was happening, how I was being deceived by the enemy who wants to take the ministry out, to take us out if he could,  that the lights came on in my heart and soul.  It was like the rain had washed clean a dirty window, and I could suddenly see what was there.  And I was horrified.  What had come over me?

I asked the Lord what the root of my behavior was.  He immediately took me back to my childhood.  My parents were very over-protective and controlling.  I wasn’t allowed to go and do things like my friends could.  I wasn’t allowed to spend the night with my girlfriends.  The tension was always high in my home of origin, so I walked on eggshells and spent a lot of time in my room.  They did not have a good marriage, and my mother used my brother and I for spousal surrogates–thus, the being “taken” from.  But I had long since forgiven them and have chosen to embrace the positives in my childhood.  I praise God for the privilege of taking care of my mother this past year until her passing.

The enemy, however, always wants to take us back to captivity.  Often when we overreact and we know our emotion doesn’t fit the situation at hand, the enemy is touching an old wound and projecting it on to the present.  It’s possible that I have a wounded part in my soul that still carries that childhood pain that the enemy was stirring up (see hopepreserved.org), or he may have come at me from the outside, whispering his lies in my ear.  I’m still seeking the Lord for that.  But I allowed myself to be deceived, and that is my responsibility.

You see, the enemy always tries to tell us we are missing out on something.  In Genesis 3, when the serpent came to Eve in the garden, he said, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”  After Eve answered that they could eat of any tree except the tree in the middle of the garden or they would die, the enemy said, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.”

Imagine the life that Adam and Eve had, living in a beautiful paradise, no cares, no guilty conscience from sin, and an up-close-and-personal relationship with God, who walked in the garden and spoke with them face to face.  The crafty serpent deceived them by suggesting that God was holding out on them; in other words, they became discontented so quickly it should make our heads spin.

The Lord has given me the desires of my heart, and I am still discovering that.  The enemy doesn’t want me to have them.  And more importantly, he doesn’t want Mark and me in unity as we follow God in the calling he has placed on our lives.  If it were possible, he would stop it as quickly as he stole from Adam and Eve their calling.  Praise God that we who are in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit to convict us and guide us into all truth!  When we hear truth and take it into our being, then we “know” truth.  And Jesus said, “Then you will  know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” John 8:32.

Ladies, this part is for you and me.  First, Satan came to the woman.  Like it or not, Scripture tells us we are the weaker vessel.  That means several things, none of them negative, but one of them means emotionally weaker, if you will.  You girls know that we are susceptible to strong emotions that can affect our behavior and decision-making, for good and for bad.

Second,  Eve gave the fruit to her husband, and he ate.  Now I’m not letting Adam off the hook.  He was passive for sure.  The point I want to make is that wives have great influence over husbands.  Scripture says a woman can win over her unbelieving husband without a word.  A woman can also bring down her husband by buying into Satan’s lies and becoming discontented, which can lead to resentment, which can lead to bitterness, which can lead to destruction.  And last consider this:  What I have described is even more serious.  It is rebellion against God, which is the enemy’s main goal.

I am so thankful to the Lord that he is merciful and forgiving.  I am so thankful that my husband will speak truth to me.  Please pay attention when a seed of discontent first begins to stir in your heart and ask God, “What’s this about?”  Don’t give the enemy a foothold.   I’m happy to tell you that unity has been restored in my marriage.  I’m not only content in our circumstances, I’m excited!  What an honor to have precious people in our home who are seeking the Lord for healing!  What a privilege to be a part of this adventure with my man!  I am full of joy and peace, which are supernatural fruits of the Spirit.  And that’s the plumb line, girls.  Let’s look at our fruit.  If it doesn’t line up with the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, let’s get alone with God and find out why.

 

 

God Always Has a Plan for Us

This week Mark and I celebrated our three-year anniversary.  We had a whirlwind courtship.  In those four-and-a-half months from first date to marriage, I don’t think my feet ever touched the ground.  My brain was swimming in oxytocin, the love hormone (and I thought I had no more hormones!) .  The anticipation, hours spent in preparation for a date-roses, candles, music.  Long talks that only ended because it was getting too late.  Did he just say “Hi, gorgeous,” on the phone to me?  I grew younger by the day, the heaviness of loss and facing life alone now fading away.

Christmas night 2009, after all the holiday festivities were over, I was alone and feeling very depressed.  That’s when the Lord gave me 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 felt hope that something or someone would be brought into my life in the new year.  So I did what many of us do-I jumped in to try to help God make it happen!

Let me tell you, it is a narrow playing field at 50-something.  The online dating services seemed scary to me.  I was tempted, but I never ventured into that arena. I let friends know I was ready to jump in, and soon I did go on a few dates.  It was exciting at first, but they left me empty because God wasn’t in them.  So I did what I should have done in the beginning.  I surrendered it to him.  I sensed him telling me that when/if he brought me a new husband, we would be better for the kingdom together than we could be alone.  

So how did I meet Mark?  Two words:  Facebook and the gym.  I didn’t meet Mark at the gym, but that’s where he saw me.  He found out who I was and sent me a friend request on Facebook that I declined without a second thought. Then he was told I was co-leading a Bible study for singles, so he messaged me to ask about it.  I replied and told him that was true, but it wasn’t going to be for men anymore because we had lost our male leadership.  However, I did consider him “safe” at that point and accepted his friend request.  

The short version is we eventually connected, and he asked me to meet him for coffee to discuss ministry, which became meeting for dinner instead, which became his picking me up for dinner.  We both weren’t sure if it was going to be a real date, but my friends told me if he didn’t pay, to ditch him.  He paid.  We had a lovely dinner and came back to my house and talked nonstop until midnight.  After he left I sent a one-word text to my friend Lisa, “Wow.”

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  The enemy tried to steal my dreams, kill my hope, and destroy God’s will for my life when my former husband died.  That first night the Lord kept telling me, “I have already seen this day.  All the days ordained for you are written in my book (Psalm 139).  I still have a plan for you and your children, to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). ”  And there was peace in the midst of my grief.  Oh, yes, there was pain.  But there was an odd sweetness, a special grace that came from knowing that a very good God was holding me together.  

Do we really, truly believe God is willing to give us abundant life?  I would have never imagined that I would feel like a young bride in my 50s!  The truth is he wants to give us abundant life every day, but we have to receive it.  Sometimes in our lives, we have to pass through the waters, but God promises to be with us.  We may even have to walk through the fire, but he promises we will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). But most of the time, it is in day-to-day life that we settle for less than what God has for us.  We have to choose to seek God for it.

Father, I thank you for Mark, for the love we have and the adventure of  following after you with our lives.  Thank you for restoring our hope and our future.  I pray for my sisters who will read this post, that they would know your faithfulness in whatever their circumstances may be.  I pray they will trust that you have a plan for them as well.  Give us all the grace to receive the abundant life you offer us in your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

Our wedding day, June 2010

Our wedding day, June 2010