Priorities: Make Us or Break Us

Why do you work out?

If I’m being totally honest, I started working out to look good in a bathing suit. I know, I know! But that is the truth. It wasn’t about getting healthier because back then I didn’t care about my health, not really. I mean what teenager/ twenty-something gives a darn about their actual health? Maybe that’s an incredibly large over-generalization, but you get you the point.

It wasn’t until recently (and in my 30’s, how did that happen??) that I started to work out for reasons aside from looks. Do I want to look amazing? Of course! But that isn’t the end goal anymore.

A wise friend told me that looking good is just a side effect of taking care of yourself. I love that thought!

That is where I am at. I am working out to get healthier and stronger. Should I look better in the process, so be it! But my work out game has only gotten stronger now that I have real goals in mind.

It is interesting to think changing the end goal of working out changes the reason to work out from superficial to something genuine. It has allowed me to make exercise a lifestyle.

That offers some introspective. For example, just like working out with the goal of getting healthier allows you to focus on form, flexibility, real training, and being able to live/perform better; changing your goals in your Christian walk can allow you to have a deeper relationship with God and all the people around you.

So, what are your goals? Are you a Christian for the sake of saying you are a Christian? Do you show up to church to merely socialize? How about that small group; what is that to you? Is loving people a real thing in your life or something that is saved for just your family? Or are you truly seeking God with your whole heart, mind, and spirit?

Those are some of the questions that I have been grappling over. I have come to find I needed to change my end goal of my faith too. A total overhaul from my body to my mind!

I am setting a goal to not care about the superficial of Christianity (you know, the dress up and look like you have it all together but really, you’re drowning inside trying to do and be everything kind of thing). I am setting the goal to start really digging into a rooted relationship with God and allowing Him to be my everything.

What does that look like?

It looks like me deliberately taking the time to be with God. I have been so poor when it comes to intimate time with God. I worship on Sundays, read when it dawns on me and sometimes do studies (but really don’t pour into it like I need to if I’m honest). It is time to take the initiative and be with the one who loves me more than anything. Time to date God regularly.

It looks like me not caring about the little things that don’t truly matter. I can waste my day cleaning my house from top to bottom for guests when they come over. But does that matter? Not really. Instead, I will not invest my time execessively cleaning. I will invest it with God which will pour out into my guests. I think they will enjoy that more than a freshly mopped floor, lol! Be a Mary, not a Martha. (Man, that poor Martha sure got a bad rep.). New mantra: People over stuff.

It looks like me being humble. This one is hard for me. But I know that I need to humble myself most days so that I can clearly see God and not my “deeds”. Simply pray a prayer of “thank you” every time I feel I have accomplished something on my own because it isn’t me, it is GOD. Have you heard the Tauren Wells song Hills and Valleys? Soooo good! Watch it! It’s a great reminder that I am not alone and that I did not accomplish where I am on my own either.

There are so many things that can happen when these little changes are made when the end goal is God. Just like working out to get healthier will have the side effect of looking and feeling better, truly walking with God will have the side effect of a fulfilled life. That kind of lifestyle is what I want. That kind of lifestyle pours out onto other people.

Let God be your end goal. He will do the work. You just simply need to allow Him.

 

Do You Feel Worthy this Season?

This year, there has been this reoccurring theme of worth. Worth seems to be linked to everything we do. Or don’t do.

According to the dictionary worth means: “sufficiently good, important, or interesting to justify a specified action; deserving to be treated or regarded in the way specified.”

Do you ever feel unworthy? Have you thought that you weren’t deserving?

It isn’t just you. It’s me. It’s all of us. We constantly feel unworthy. In fact, as I write this, I am second guessing every word. Ugh.

Unworthiness is a crazy stronghold. It is time that we, as people, break free from those chains. It is time to remember to whom we belong.

“Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant or insecure, remember to whom you belong.” Ephesians 2:19-22

I figured, what better season to talk about our worth than right now. Christmas is a wonderful time to remember who we are in Christ because we are celebrating him!

Jesus loves us. He wants us to feel worthy.

Feeling worthy is vital. Feeling worthy allows us to live life better. When we feel that we are deserving, we open up to love and happiness. Guess what happens when we feel loved? We love other people better!

Feeling worthy is a necessity, especially if you love Jesus. Listen, friends, he did not put us here to feel bad about ourselves. Jesus doesn’t look at us that way. He loves us exactly where we are. In the thick of our craziness, his love is there.

So, why do we feel like we aren’t deserving?

The enemy. Plain and simple. All those self doubts, negative thoughts, feelings of unworthiness, those aren’t from Jesus.

DO NOT listen to those negative words.

Would Jesus love us so much that he died for us so we could spend eternity with him to only then tell us how horrible we are? NO!!!!

Stop listening to those negative words.

The only reason those thoughts creep in is so that enemy can handicap us.

I heard this great quote at a convention I recently attended: “You can only love other people once you love yourself.” Wow. Guys, that says it all.

What is our command from Jesus, friends? To LOVE God and to LOVE one another. How can we do that if we don’t feel worthy enough to be loved?

Trust me here guys, we are worthy. Jesus says so.

Do me a favor, listen to God instead. He loves us. He wants us. We are important to him.

This Christmas season, show other people how much he loves us. Remember to whom you belong and put on your crowns.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Is God Interested in my Comfort?

What is your version of comfort? I know that when I grab a big fluffy blanket, some hot tea and curl up on the couch, I am comfortable. I will literally ask one of my kids to get something for me (that I could probably get if I reached just a little tiny bit) so that I don’t have to move my body at all. Super lazy! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is totally needed, especially after a very long, hard day with school and the kids. I get it! But, sometimes it is the sum of being a lazy slug.

In those times, I am reminded of how I am not doing my body or brain any favors by being a couch potato. In those times, I think about God’s purpose for my life. Is it to be comfortable? Did he create me, give me this life with these people so that I can lay back and slide through life comfortably without having to lift a finger? I don’t think that is his plan.

I have never met an athlete that doesn’t push their body to the limit in order to get better. Or a successful writer that hasn’t had to stretch their minds in order to improve their writing. There is not one person that has truly succeeded in their field without stepping outside their comfort zone in one aspect or another. It is plain and simple that people do not grow, get better, reach more people without being uncomfortable first. Growth doesn’t happen on the couch.

As I read through the Bible, over and over again I see people stepping out of their comfort zones in order to obey God. Moses went from a super comfortable living situation in a palace to living in the desert for 40 years. Instead of marrying someone he knew and loved, Hosea married a prostitute that cheated on him numerous times. Jonah, although hesitating the entire time, traveled to a place he definitely didn’t want to go in order to obey God. None of things seem comfortable to me, yet all of them were required by God. So, is God concerned with my level of comfort? Or is it my level of obedience?

I think, coming from an American viewpoint, we have gotten a little off track when it comes to following Jesus. I am reading a book by Jennie Allen (she is just an amazing woman of God and you can buy her book if you click on the title of it!!) called Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul. In this book she talked about Jesus being radical; that following and obeying Jesus is radical. She discusses that somewhere along the lines, we have come to believe that once we give our lives to Christ, life should be easy; in that we pray to God to show us what to do and then think that the easiest possible answer that pops up must be the one from God. This my friends, is not true. Our lives are not going to be easy! Read the Bible if you want proof, lol!

Now, before I get people yelling about how it says that God wants to prosper us and give us hope, let me tell you, yes! Absolutely God wants the best for you. But, I think that what we think is the best for us (or the most comfortable) is often times not what God thinks is best for us or for his kingdom. Often times, in order to receive the best version of our life from God, we have to obey; even the uncomfortable requests.

Jesus also said that we will have trouble in this world. Not if we will, but that we will. But listen, that is ok! Trouble is everywhere. Sin is everywhere, we are not exempt from that. However, God already won. We don’t have to worry about winning that war. That is the best news, isn’t it? Even in our personal struggles or the troubles of the world, God is with us and he has won. All we have to do is lean into him. Even in death, we win!

So, when it comes to my personal comfort, I don’t know that God is too concerned about it. God did tell us to rest; please remember to rest, it is vital to life, but our level of comfort is another story all together. Growth does not come from comfort. If you want to dig deeper, stretch your mind, grow in your walk with God, become better than you were yesterday, get out of your comfort zone and into the world. Spread the love of Jesus the way he did.

 

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3 Ways Porn Wrecked My Marriage

*DISCLAIMER: This post is raw, real and vulnerable. My husband was the very first person to read this writing. It was his decision to have me post it to try to help other people struggling.

Pornography. That word makes every ounce of my being shudder. I don’t really hate a lot of things, but this, this I hate. If pornography was a person, I would punch it until it dropped to the ground and then I would curb stomp its face. Now, I didn’t always used to have such a strong reaction to pornography. In fact, I used to watch it; both by myself (before getting married) and then with my husband. I was under the impression, like so many others, that pornography helps to enhance our sex lives. But, man, can I tell you thinking that way is a straight up lie. Pornography is a straight up lie. It almost ruined our marriage. Pornography wreaked havoc on my self-esteem, devastated our sex life and destroyed trust between my husband and me.

  1. My self-image changed in every respect for the worse.

Every single part of who I thought I was changed. I no longer felt vibrant and lovable; I never felt good enough. He wanted to watch some other women do sexual acts instead of being with me. I often thought I needed to look like a porn star and act like a porn star just so he would notice me. I felt like an object. I was only there to be pretty and fulfill every sexual need. I distinctly remember asking him one time if I was better than porn. Of course, he said yes. But, of course, I couldn’t believe it. Over the years, I tried to “win” his affection back by competing against what he liked to watch. I would see that he liked stripper type stuff, so I would dress up and give a show. Wow, what that did to me was horrendous. It is something that I struggle with to this day, to this minute, this very second. Who I was before this affected us, is definitely not who I am now.

  1. I stopped wanting to have sex with my husband.

You know, a lot of people think that introducing porn into their sex life is something that will “spice it up”. Yet, there we were, not having a whole lot of sex anymore. There were these expectations that I felt I had to live up to. Having sex with him was a show. I felt like I had to perform exactly like the women he watched. The true intimacy that a husband and wife should have, was nowhere to be found which made it difficult to really engage. I couldn’t be vulnerable with him. I couldn’t really “feel” during that act. I no longer enjoyed sex, I no longer wanted him to touch me and I did not want to touch him. Over time, I related having sex with my husband as something negative. That was bad. Not only did it affect our marriage at that point in time, but it continues to affect our marriage even now. I have had to work through a lot of negative to become available, emotionally and physically, to my husband again.

  1. Trust issues ran amuck in our relationship.

One of the most important things in a relationship is trust. When he was addicted to porn, there was no trust. He constantly would tell me lies to cover it up. I remember the first time that we talked about it. He simply responded that it was no big deal and that every man does it. So, I simply set it aside and let it go. I even allowed it in our bedroom together. But over time, it felt worse and worse. The distance between became greater. So, that ended. Then, I found out again that he was watching porn on his own; which is silly because I knew the whole time. I felt not good enough and second-rate. I was hurt. I asked him to stop and he agreed. But at this point I didn’t believe him. I would go through his phone, the computer, our television just to see what he watched or looked up. The smallest thing would set me off.  Low and behold the third time came around. This was the boiling point. I felt betrayed. I was done. The little trust that was left was shattered into pieces. Gone.

This boiling point sent us over the edge. There was an ultimatum now: stop looking at porn or leave. Praise God that my wonderful husband chose help. The first step we took, we took together. We set up an appointment with our pastor to go over everything. At the appointment, there was breakthrough. We learned about an organization called XXXchurch. They have a super cool spyware software that will not allow people to look at porn on their computers, tablets, phones; pretty much any device. So, we set that up. Which was awesome because I could let go of trying to do detective work and focus on healing. There was also a book that we both read. Every Man’s Battle by Fred Stoeker and Stephen Arterburn. This book is a great “manual”, if you will, to learn how to stop looking at porn, checking women out and basically being faithful to your spouse mentally and physically. My husband and I learned a whole lot from that book. Both of these were extremely helpful and tangible first steps. But, let me tell you, if it wasn’t for God, we would be divorced. If it wasn’t for God we would be alone. We both persistently leaned into God.

God showed us both how to get through this. For my husband, he needed to learn to get past the addiction. For me, I needed to learn trust again. So, there we were, both trying to do right by each other. I can say that everything was roses right away, but that’s a lie. This road to recovery for us was a long and difficult one. This road to recovery is something that we both struggle with daily. He has to daily commit to make me his only eye candy.  I have to commit daily to trust him. There are times that we fail, well because we’re human of course. But, mostly, we are growing and going forward with God in life and marriage. In the book Every Man’s Battle, they talk about the wife being annoyed after the husband stops looking at porn because he now yearns for her WAY more. It’s true, lol! But I am far from annoyed because every time he shows me that yearning, my self-esteem grows and my desire for him gets stronger. Now, three years later and we’re on the other end, our marriage has never been stronger. My husband is the man of my dreams, the best father to our children that I could have hoped for and more over a man who loves the Lord. Jehovah Rapha is who we have to thank.

Do you or someone you know need help? Start with prayer. Another great first step is to contact XXXchurch (www.xxxchurch.com) and your pastor. Please don’t wait. Please seek help. Your life can be so much better.

If you are interested in reading the book (which I highly recommend) Every Man’s Battle, you can purchase it here:  Every Man’s Battle by Fred Stoeker and Stephen Arterburn.

 

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It’s Not About Me

Selflessness has been the ongoing theme of lifeWorshipping-_art lately. When I first started attending our church, I was out on a mission to “help” other people. I know that sounds like a good goal, but little did I realize that it was a selfish goal.

Did you know that you need to learn in order to teach? Sounds pretty straight forward.  I mean, if you sat down and thought about something that you would like to do, you first need to learn the ins and outs of everything, right? But, maybe you thought you already knew. Maybe, just maybe, there was enough pride poking into your life that you thought there was not much else to learn. Maybe you thought that it would be so awesome to be the “leader” of something that it kind of became just about leading. There was no research involved, no prayer really, just taking the reigns and hoping for the best. For the spotlight.

That is where I have continually fumbled. This life, although enjoyed by me, is NOT about me. Recently, a friend of mine was told that she was going through a tough time in life because God was testing her. That is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the Christian world. I don’t like it. I don’t believe it. I think that God is teaching us, not testing us. We tend to think that if the same situation happens again and again in our lives, God is testing us and we are failing. But in reality, I think that God is teaching us and we keep missing the point. The only reason I bring this up is because, although I really thought I knew what I supposed to be doing, it never seemed to go quite right. When I thought I was helping someone, I realized that I wasn’t equipped or I was ill-equipped. Either way, I needed to LEARN.

This past Sunday, the sermon was about selflessness. The Bible study that I am working in is about selflessness. Just about every conversation lately has led to the topic of selflessness. So, here I am talking about, you guessed it, selflessness! I am learning that maybe I could be a leader in some kind of plan of God’s, but maybe not. I am learning that I need to learn. My prayer is that I am filled everyday with new knowledge that will help me to help other people. I prayer that I am filled with new knowledge that helps me to be selfless.

Let’s face it, who needs another selfish person that just craves the spotlight?

Growth

 

I met with a group of wonderful women the other night. Every time we meet, we go through some questions that are supposed to make us dig deep into conversation. One of the questions stood out to me this time. It asked “In what area of your life do you want to see growth?”. At first, I couldn’t answer, not because there wasn’t an answer but because so many came racing through my mind; getting in shape, being healthier, reading more, spending more quality family time, etc. But then there it was. My marriage.

For so long, I have (actually my husband and I both have) been putting a lot, if not all, of our energy into our children. We plan their curriculum and activities. We make sure that they eat healthier foods. We take the time to read, play and teach them. We go on outings that are meant for mainly their enjoyment. The list could go on for days! Now, all of these things are good. All of these things are meaningful to create productive, loving, empathetic human beings. However, there is a thin line between putting our children above our marriage and putting our marriage first. We crossed that line and now it is time to recover.

We went on a second honeymoon not too long ago which allowed us to reconnect on a whole new level. We were able to just be man and wife, best friends and lovers. That trip was wonderful! For one, we were both happier and for another, we were able to be on the same page for everything that we did. This new-found connection has shown me that I am not just a mom, my husband isn’t just a dad but we are two people who started a family and then added children to it. Meaning, we were married first, then our children were added onto our already established family. So, we need to treat it that way!

I have been reading a great devotional that discusses how to raise children in a Godly manner. One thing that the author touched on was putting marriage first. Evidently there is an order in the household: God, marriage, children. Now, when we put our marriage above our children, we are only doing good because it benefits us in obvious ways but it also benefits the kiddos because they feel secure, they have a model of what marriage should look like and they learn how to put other people first. All of that sounds pretty good to me. So, God, then marriage, then children it is!

This question of growth in my life, without a doubt, has brought me to the realization that my children are not the center of the universe and they shouldn’t be. It has brought me the realization that my husband is one wonderful man who I fall in love with every day. It has brought me the realization that although I struggle hourly with day-to-day life in general, I have a partner, best friend and confidant that I need to put first. I need to put our marriage first, not just for me but for my husband and my children. That is where I choose to grow today.