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The Goodness of Being Uncomfortable…

“Well, Jesus hasn’t told me any of this, so you must be wrong.” This was my emphatic statement to my husband years ago, when he told me that he felt the Lord leading him to resign from his job and pursue developing his own company. Clearly, there was nothing spiritual about what I said to him. I knew it the minute I said it. It was my way of getting out of a prickly situation. A way of avoiding what I instinctively knew was about to happen to our lives. And I wanted no part of it.

We were about to get really uncomfortable.

That was back in January of 1999. Although its been quite some time since then {gosh, has it really been 20 years?} I remember the day that my husband told me of his revelation, like it was yesterday.

We went from a very secure six figure salary with benefits and tons of perks to complete financial uncertainty. My husband worked for a well-known entertainment company and God has blessed him with crazy talent for animation. He felt God calling him to leave his job and start his own faith-based company; a way to use the gifts God had given him to reach families with a message of Christ’s redemption and salvation through animation.

I finally came around because I was tired of dodging the Holy Spirit. Have you ever experienced that? No matter where you are, there HE is!

So, we jumped in, a bit trepidatiously, but confident that we were following God’s direction for our little family. And what could possibly go wrong when you are following Jesus…right?

Long story short ~ we emptied our savings and our 401K, joined forces with two other families in our church (who did the same), lived and breathed this calling from God, and lived our faith out loud in an industry that could care less about Christian ideals.

A week after our business plan was completed and ready for the 14 meetings we had planned with investors, 9/11 happened. We lost all but one meeting and at that, we were put off until the new year.

Seven years later, our company closed. Amidst an abundance of tears and sadness, the one thing that my husband and I, our daughters, and the other two families held firmly to was a spirit of contentment.

This is a story in itself, but suffice to say, during this time of our lives, we learned the true meaning of contentment. The Lord developed in us a strong determination to always seek after faith, trust, and belief that God is always good. Because of all that we endured, I have gained an unshakeable contentment that I serve a living, loving, good, good Father.

Philippians 4:11-13 {AMP} says, “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

I’ve read this verse countless times in my life, but until those eight years, I had no idea what it truly meant to live a life of contentment. I know that part of the gifts I have from the Lord is the ability to believe that no matter what, everything will turn out okay. Even wavering a bit through difficult circumstances, I’ve always known it to be true.

The dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.” The one part of these definitions that are most personal to me is the “ease of mind”. It is absolutely impossible to have a mind or heart that is content on your own. I tried it both ways, and I know Who gives me the ability to be content.

His name is Jesus.

Before this whole adventure of leaping out of our comfort zone, we had lived in a different kind of comfort zone. Consistent paychecks, all benefits, money was no object, beautiful home, my husband had an enviable career, I stayed at home with our children, kids went to private school, nice cars, the world-standard of a healthy bank account and investments ~ all of it. In the eyes of the world, and even in the eyes of our friends and family, we had it all.

And I was miserable! I was miserable because I wasn’t grateful. I was expectant of receiving good things, because well, I just did. I deserved them. It was my right to have a good life. I lived as a Christian well enough to hide my true thoughts. I led bible study groups, developed my gift of hospitality to host various events in our home, was the good wife and the doting mother. I was doing all the right things. But my heart was not moved to where God wanted my heart to be.

He wanted my heart to be moved by Him and for Him.

Instead of dwelling on all the things I did wrong and all the ways I did not act faithfully, let me tell you how this season of eight years shaped me for the rest of my life.

I learned that it is difficult to receive.

The first time I had to tell my husband that we didn’t have enough money for groceries was quite humiliating. We had come face to face with the fact that we could no longer deny the fact that following God’s direction meant sacrifice. What was even more difficult was to call up my parents and ask them to take us grocery shopping. For goodness sake, we were in our 30’s with three kids and a mortgage. What was happening to us? We were very used to being on the giving end…other families in need, gifts for friends and family, dinners out on us, and on and on.
It was very, very different now.

God was asking us to be open with our struggles. To ask for prayer for finances (ugh!) and for the Lord to lead us to new investors for our company. Life ebbed and flowed and sometimes we felt swept away on the current of the unknown, but we began to learn that it was only unknown to us. God knew exactly where He was taking us.

When confronted with challenging financial circumstances, like when we realized we had about $18.00 (yes… E I G H T E E N) in our bank account, instead of completely freaking out and despairing over our future (or the next hour!) we would hold hands and pray; together and as a family. The girls never knew the extent of the leanness of our finances, but they knew life had changed.

One morning, upon cobbling together a totally weird lunch for our girls to take to school, I went to find my husband to pray before we left. We distinctively felt that we were not to ask anyone for help.

We were learning true dependence on Him.

After I dropped the girls off at school, I pulled over, about to call my mom for help, but remembered what the Lord had whispered to our hearts. So instead, I prayed and asked Him for a content heart. As soon as I said “Amen”, my husband called and said that I needed to drive over to the office before going home.

When I arrived, with tears in his eyes, he handed me an envelope that someone had left on his desk chair. It was a “Thinking of You” card and it simply said inside, “You are being thought of today. Love, Jesus” ~ and there was a grocery store gift card for $100.00. We hugged and cried and thanked the Lord for this unexpected provision. Again, it was only unexpected by us…He knew all about it. He had prepared the heart of an anonymous person to bless us out of their excess.

I learned that it is worth it to look foolish in the eyes of friends and family.

So many times, when the Lord asks us to follow Him, to trust Him, to take that leap of faith, it will not look “normal” to the people around us. It was surprising to us that the initial support we received was from our church, not necessarily from our family. Some of it came out of concern for our well-being, but some of non-support came from those who claimed we were doing things outside of the will of God. The first few years of our business was extremely difficult in dealing with some of these family members and it caused us great sadness. It came to a point that we simply ceased any conversation with them about the business.

That experience helped me to shape other relationships in my life. I’ve come to understand, through loads of prayer and seeking the Lord, that not everyone needs to know every thing about me and my life. I need only share with people, whether I’m related to them or not, what the Holy Spirit spurs me to share.

I learned that God’s path is never easy but always worth it.

No matter what, it is always more important to serve the Lord than to care what others think.

Over the past decades, there have been plenty of times in my life that I have reverted to feeling the fear of what others might think about me and my decisions, only to realize that God’s opinion of me is what matters. When I am content in knowing who I am as God created me and in doing what He has created me for, then I can soar! It doesn’t mean that I will have a smooth path ahead of me, it just means that I have a loving Father who has good plans for me to follow.

I learned that teaching my daughters to trust the Lord for everything was in fact, everything.

This was probably the hardest one actually. Every parent wants to give their children everything they can. I can admit that I wanted to have more “yeses” than “no’s” in my vocabulary. The important part was in making sure that my girls knew why we were saying no or yes. We would have family talks and make as many decisions with them as we could. Obviously, there were plenty of things that we had to decide as the parents, but letting our kids know that we valued their ideas and opinions too was important.

As our middle daughter began to feel a shift in her future plans for after high school graduation, what could have been a difficult conversation wasn’t hard at all. She felt that the Lord was leading her to become a full time missionary instead of attending traditional college. As she shared her heart and what had brought her to this decision, my husband and I could see the contentment in her eyes and hear it in her voice.

Towards the end of the conversation, my ever-practical husband said to her, “Babe, why would you willingly choose a life where you are dependent upon other people to support you financially? You know what a hard life that can. It’s so unpredictable. Are you really sure about this? I mean, you know the difficult years we had spent where we had to ask for financial help on so many occasions and hope that God would intervene for our provision.”

I’ll never forget her face nor her response.

She said, “I know where you’re coming from dad, but that’s why I don’t have any worries about my future financially. First, this is what God is calling me to and I know He’ll provide. And besides that, I watched how the Lord provided for our family over and over and over again. You and Mom showed me how to trust God no matter what and how to stay content in believing that God would always provide what we needed exactly when we needed it.”

To be ministered to with wise words by your children is one of the most amazing and humbling experiences of my life!

I learned that loving my husband meant battle.

Thankfully my husband and I never battled each other, but we battled the enemy on the daily for stability in our marriage and in our family.

When the Lord asks us to follow Him, satan is going to do everything he can to distract us from the path. Especially when that path takes you down the uncertainty of finances, that can definitely have a negative impact on a marriage relationship.

When we were planning our wedding, we vowed to each other that: Plan A – commit our marriage and family to the Lord and that divorce would never be a part of any future conversation. Divorce would never be an option. Plan B – refer to Plan A!

And that’s what we have done for the past 29 years. Through the wealth of the first decade of our marriage, to the incredibly lean years of the second decade, to now the almost third decade of life together. Contentment in knowing that God brought us together for a reason and purpose, fuels our desire to impact others for Him.

I learned that being authentically vulnerable is what people want.

True contentment comes from knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that the Lord is for me, not against me. It is a deep commitment to follow Him wherever He leads, especially when it doesn’t seem to make sense to anyone else. People want to hear the authentic story of how God has moved in your life. Pretending that “life is good” will never bring anyone closer to a real relationship with Jesus. As we know, sometimes life doesn’t feel so great. But the Lord is always good!

As I live my life, I want to show others that I can be content no matter the circumstances. I honestly believe everything will turn out okay, not because I deserve an easy life, but because I know who I serve. The Lord does not change. He will always be drawing me to Him to experience a deeper love for the path He has for me.

I can be content in my life because I know

the Lord is my provider and protector.

Blessings,

René

Being Uncomfortable...
{Photo by Camila Cordeiro on Unsplash}

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Punctured Faith

I’ve watched enough medical drama’s to know that having a punctured lung is a really bad thing.  Okay, that’s a complete understatement I realize, but it’s true.  Our lung tissue is so delicate that God created a cage of ribs to protect it. But if something makes it through that cage and the lung is punctured, that person is in immediate and very real danger of dying.  You must seek medical attention quickly so that they can avert tragedy and begin the healing process.

According to WebMD, here’s a very basic answer as to how a lung can be injured: “There are two main types of lung injuries: direct and indirect.  Direct lung injuries are caused by infections, chemicals, and trauma that directly affect the lung. An indirect lung injury is caused by another condition elsewhere in the body. A lung injury can cause a collapsed lung or develop into acute respiratory distress syndrome — two potentially life-threatening conditions.”

Now that we have a medical definition of a punctured lung, I hope you are still with me here…let’s look at the similarities of that physical issue compared to have punctured faith.

Similarly, your faith can be punctured by indirect and direct injury.  A direct injury could look like losing a loved one, paying attention to deceitful thoughts from the enemy, or being hurt by someone we trusted (or even someone that we didn’t even know).  Indirectly, your faith could be punctured by a trauma that was in your past but was never dealt with. So when it rears its ugly head, you feel like you have “no idea where that came from” and you are forced to deal with the trauma many years (or decades) later.

As physical injury to our lungs creates a life-threatening condition, so too comes a threat to our spiritual well-being when our faith has been punctured.  Either way, we must act immediately!  Many times, it takes someone else taking a closer look at our life to see that we are about to succumb to the distress our body is going through, in order to save us.

Faith distress looks different for everyone.  Every single person on this planet is going through something.  No one is exempt from pain, grief, sadness, anger, desolation, vulnerability, sorrow, despair, fear, or basic concern.  BUT….we do have the Great Healer as our Heavenly Father, and He can take away those issues when we rest in Him.  Not an easy task at all, but with His strength and His assistance, we CAN do it!

What happens when we decide to hold onto those attitudes?  They are directly and indirectly poking holes in our faith which makes it harder to breathe in the life that God has for us.  There have only been a handful of times in my life that I felt so disheartened, so desperate, so distraught, that I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I felt like I was going to pass out or have a heart attack.  I felt like the world was spinning out of control and gravity was slipping out from under me.  I wanted the pain to stop.  I didn’t want to think.  I didn’t want to try and fix anything.  That is a frightening place to be and I thank the Lord for the people in my life who pulled me out of those potentially tragic situations.

Thankfully, our spiritual lungs are much tougher than our physical lungs.  I am grateful that in all of God’s goodness and grace, He is the patient Physician who attends us along our path to recovery.  He brings us friends to encourage us, His Holy Word to strengthen us, and many times uses seemingly random interactions with strangers to call out to us that He sees us.  His goal is to make us whole again ~ to bring restoration to our punctured faith.

Today, my heart is heavy with the sadness I feel for one of my daughters’ friends who lost their mother to a long illness this morning.  In the midst of her young adulthood, about to graduate from college, she has to now mourn the loss of her mom.  This is too young for her to mourn.  And at this time in her life?  So many things do not make sense to me, so this is EXACTLY when I have to trust that even in this, God has a mighty plan for this sweet young woman’s life.  I have to believe that He sees her and that He will carry her through the distress and extreme sadness of this time in her life.

It is God’s strength and being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit that we can sustain injuries, and come out healed on the other side.

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Remember, this isn’t a “rub the magic lamp and the genie will grant us our wishes” kind of deal.  The life that the Lord intends for us to live, is absolutely far greater than anything we can imagine.  Humbly we come through tragedy, with a fresh dependence on the Lord to give us what we need.

Ephesians 3:12 tells of the promise we have, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”

Notice that it does not say that we have confidence in our self to come boldly to the throne of God in our time of need ~ or in our time of rest!  Our boldness come through our faith in the LORD.

How do we know that the Lord will hear us when we call on Him?  Or when He comes alongside us to repair that punctured faith? Right here in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 states the answer, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”  As believers, we are called a Child of God.  We have been adopted into the Royal Priesthood of our Heavenly Father.  He calls us His own and what He promises, He will fulfill.

Life is not exempt from hardship.  God’s Word promises that as well.  But He ALWAYS provides a way of escape!  A way out of the dark shadows of fear and doubt.

Isaiah 43:1b-3a, are a collection of promises that I absolutely have clung to in various times in my life.  These words from the Lord are so precious and I hope they offer you comfort today ~
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
What absolute joy these bring ~ can you feel it!?  Look at all those amazing promises!!  Come on now…stand up and say them out loud…
He has redeemed you!
He calls you by name!
You are His!
He will be with you!
You will not be overwhelmed!
You will not be consumed!
He is the Lord!
He is Holy!
He is your Savior!
Do not make fear and doubt your friend ~ they will disappoint you and suck the life out of you every single time!  Trust in the One whose ways are higher than ours, Who never lies, Who never cheats or steals, Who always has the best intentions and plans for you, Who always keeps His Word, and Who is always dependable.
When I was a young girl, I played soccer for several years.  When we practiced running the ball toward the goal net, our coach would tell us emphatically, “When in doubt, kick it out.”  Well, let me take a bit of liberty with this one and tell you, that as you run toward the goal of living your life to serve the Lord with all you’ve got….When in doubt, SHOUT it out!  Cry out to Him in your pain and grief, shout out praises to Him in the midst of chaos!  He will hear you and He will carry you the rest of the way.
If you feel that your faith has been punctured by the sharp disappointments and tragedies of life, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).
Psalm 16 verse 8
Blessings,René