I’m Out of Control

A couple of weeks ago I found myself wallowing in unfulfilled dreams, disappointment in friendships, and family stress. I let every negative thought consume me. I did not take a single thought captive. I let the circumstances I was in dictate my feelings. I let my brain go to the dark places of “this is always, and every single.” I attached permanent words to temporary moments. That is not healthy. 

 

On Sunday my pastor, Craig Groeshel started a series called “Anxious for Nothing.” https://www.life.church/media/anxious-for-nothing/when-youve-had-enough/ He explained that when you’ve had enough. You run yourself into the ground. You shut people out. You focus on the negative. You forget God. I had done all of the above.

 

I was overly exhausted helping take care of my ailing grandmother that is suffering from alzheimer’s. I made no real effort to reach out to friends and explain how hard it has been on our family. A year ago I pitched my book to a publisher, the meeting went great. But, I’ve not heard anything tangible since. I dream big and get disappointed proportionately. It’s hard for me to logic myself out of that negative thought process. Work plus faith should equal dreams coming true. But, that’s not always how God works. I think I’m remembering God, but I speak lies to myself about what He will really do for me. What He’s already done and what He is doing. 

 

I began to pray that Jesus would create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me. (Psalms 51:10) I could not go on giving life to things that only bring death and decay. 

 

So, Jesus, being the gracious Savior and Friend that He is, answered my prayer. He told me to take control of what I could control. That He would take care of the rest. Freeing me from the strain I was feeling. Filling me with the faith, peace and strength that only comes from a loving father. 

 

What are the things I can control? Well for one, Marie Kondo-ing the heck out of my room and closet. I literally had clothes from kindergarten. I’m almost 23. I got rid of unfinished diy projects. 2 year old calendars that never got filled in. You get the idea. I can control the food I put in my body. Goodbye carbs, you’ll be missed, but you also made me feel like a pregnant hippo. I can control what I put out into the world. What I write, what I say. 

 

God knows what He’s doing with my dreams. He’s working in the unseen and He may not fulfill my dreams on my timeline, but He will fulfill them at the right time. Jesus knows I’m lonely a lot even though I’m an introvert. I already see Him starting to put people in my life to give me the sense of community I’m longing for. Our family recently set a few respite days in the fall. We are going to see some Broadway shows (my absolute fave) and dear ole, Mamaw will be staying with our amazing cousin. It’s daunting and liberating to know there is absolutely nothing we can do to make things just right. God is doing it. He is good and does good. Free-falling, but knowing who’s there to catch us makes all the difference.

 

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Don’t Label Me

I’ve worn many of labels throughout my life. Smart. Funny. Short. Annoying. Cripple. Writer. Actress. Minister. Boss. Know-it-all. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Leader. Follower. Some of these labels, such as “daughter” are naturally occurring based on definable positions.  Some labels were given to me by others to define me based on their own interpretations (good or bad) and I even placed some labels on myself to explain my own deficiencies or to self-deprecate.

To be perfectly honest none of these titles make me feel like I am actually known. None of the labels make me feel like I’m called by my true identity.  I think labels are too shallow and only touch the surface of one’s true-self. I’ve even gone as far to say “I don’t even like adjectives. I don’t need to be described. Just let me exist as myself.”

So much of the time we get so caught up in trying to figure out who we are or how we think others see us that we never really recognize what is true.

In our search, we go to every personality quiz, or as I like to call them “Christian Horoscopes.” We go to other people and seek their opinions of us. We go anywhere except the truth to find our identity. The only place we know as the source of truth is God’s word.  

The only One that gets to say who we are is Christ.  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9 NIV 

Once we know who our true identity, how do we live that out in our real lives?

As chosen, royal people we are able to walk in the confidence of knowing our Father knows us and sees us as a special possession.  We need to stop doubting ourselves and begin living in the confidence that comes from the King. Our true residence is the Kingdom. As Christians we get to start living there even while living on this temporary and imperfect home. 

As God’s special possession we need to be gentle with ourselves and start seeing others the same way. If you went into a castle filled with specially curated valuables that are precious to the king, you wouldn’t degrade them or throw them around like dollar store toys.  He values and loves us so much that our identity should only be found in Jesus.  

The best thing about knowing your true identity is that you get to share that news with others. You get to call out the truth in others. Not what people say they are but who Jesus says they are.  You get to wipe the dust off the fun house mirror of this world and say “No! Look, the King chose you. This pedestal is just for you. Only you can fill the place He made for you. He is rich in mercy and doesn’t see those false and limiting labels. He left heaven to become a man, then died and rose again so that we could be with Him forever. Go and tell the others that a place reserved for them too.”

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.  John 14:2 CSB

Modesty Matters

“Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel,” 1 Timothy 2:9

The word “modesty” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I am pretty sure I have a little PTSD from the uniforms I was required to wear at my private Christian school.  I also associate modesty with long denim skirts and families that need a school bus to go to the grocery store. Plaid skirts or denim skirts? Neither connotation appeals to me.  

I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, I rode horses and played basketball growing up. I never put too much thought into what I was wearing. Did it match? Was it clean? Could I wear my converse with it? That was the extent of my thought process.

If my school uniform had the options of pants or culottes and a polo, I was content. I wore what was comfortable. Not, because it was particularly modest, but because it was what I liked. There was this expectation to be pure and modest with no explanation of what that meant or why it mattered.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Modesty really starts with the posture of your heart. Are you being modest because your parents, teachers, or pastors required it? Are you trying to be modest out of obligation, guilt or shame? “They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands” (Mark 7:7) Or are you conscious about the way you dress because you want to honor God and your body? “I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.” (Psalm 139:14)

Making a choice out of obligation will eventually cause resentment and cause “modesty” to feel like chains.  Chains cause resistance. That is slavery, not freedom.  We can bring glory to God literally from head to toe with our actions and our words. We can do all of this with a cheerful heart, not out of obligation, but because of His love for us.

 

 

Dear Lonely Girl

Dear girl who feels alone. Dear girl who feels misunderstood. Dear girl who smiles in public because she was asked one too many times if she was in a bad mood. Dear girl who walks into church with her phone in one hand and a coffee in another. In order to avoid high fives. Dear girl who responds to polite greeters with a quick “hey” and “I’m fine.” Dear girl who quickly rushes to her usual seat and meets most expectations. Dear girl who hoped she’d be noticed by people other than the ones who volunteered to notice her. Dear girl who goes straight home and cries in the bathtub and feels like an idiot for ever thinking people should notice her. Dear girl who lies awake at night staring at her ceiling fan because there doesn’t seem to be a single person on the face of the earth that gets her. She has acquaintances. She has people she sees every week at small group. But no one that really truly gets her for her.

Well, lonely girl. You are not the only one that feels this way. I have felt just like you. And much more recently than I’d like to admit.

The thing that I’ve been learning. And re-learning. And realizing that I’ve been trying to learn my whole life is that, living for community with people can never replace living in communion with Jesus.

Even just a few weeks ago at church, my pastor did a message on valuing God’s approval over the approval of man. I loved the message, but left church disheartened that my friends hadn’t invited me to go do something after.

Humans cannot fill the God-sized place in your soul.

You will always feel lonely if you are not spending enough time with the friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Sincerely,
The Girl in the Church Pants.

Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

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Fear is a big fat LIAR

brown snowy mountain

To some people, climbing this mountain would be a dream come true. They would be excited about the adventure before them. They would look forward to standing at the summit and gazing down below. They would enjoy the thrill of the height and sense of accomplishment. They would tell all their friends, without a tremble in their voice, what they did and encourage them to do it too!

That’s great for those of you that like to do this kind of stuff.

Me… not so much. I was diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety disorder by my pediatrician. I was so neurotic as a child that I would have full blown panic attacks going from a different texture of floor to the next. i.e. wood to concrete to tile to carpet. It made me feel like I was falling. You know that feel when you’re half asleep and you feel like you’re falling. I felt like that going from my living room to my kitchen. Wide awake. I’ve since overcame that particular sensory issue, but I still struggle deeply with the same symptoms when I go up steep stairs i.e. nosebleed bleacher seats at a concert. I have severe vertigo-like symptoms when I go near anything resembling a mountain. I full on feel like I am going to pass out. Same thing happens when I’m near super tall buildings. Imagine my predicament when all I ever wanted was to go to NYC and my parents took me for my 16th birthday. I didn’t get acclimated until the last day we were there, I enjoyed my trip as long as we were inside. As soon as I would step outside, it LITERALLY felt like the world was crashing down on me. Sucking any joy I had out of that moment.

Most of my life I can remember fear stealing my joy. Sometimes it was social anxiety keeping me from making friend or when I did have friends they always wanted to do something I was afraid of. Things that the average person  wouldn’t think twice about doing.

The past couple of years I’ve slowly been trying to capture back my joy, ability to have fun, and even some of my happiness. Here are some things that I’ve learned.

  1. Having an anxiety disorder does not equal lack of faith in God
  2. Do not become superstitious with your prayers
  3. Ask your doctor about medicine for anxiety. It helps you, just find the right one.
  4. If you’re truly scared to do something do not let other people pressure you. It is okay to say no.
  5. God can miraculously heal you of fear, and use modern medicine to do it.

 

 

The Right to Bear The Armor of God: The Breastplate of Righteousness

Ephesians 6:14 says “Stand firm then… with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”

 

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Paul uses the example of armor in his letter to the Ephesians. Early Christians would have been very familiar with Roman soldiers in full armor. The image of a Roman guard would come right to mind when Paul says “the breastplate.” According to romanmilitary.net, the Romans did not always use a very large breastplate, but in fact a 20cm square piece of armor that they called “the heart guard.” It is likely that Paul and the Ephesians knew that “the breastplate” was synonymous with “the heart guard.” Paul was telling the church at Ephesus to guard their hearts! Perhaps he was describing the more common piece of armor that we picture that covers the whole chest of the soldier, these breastplates would have kept the soldiers up right with good posture, enhancing their intimidation factor and their ability to pay better attention in battle. Either way, Paul was trying to reach the heart of the church, not just give them a description of a man in armor.

Romans 3:22 explains that righteousness is given through Jesus to those that believe. Our righteousness is not our own. We cannot take ownership of it. We are only made righteous through Jesus and His work in us. Just like Paul tells us to put on the full Armor of God, Job says that he puts righteousness on like clothes. (Job 29:14)

We must also be aware that being right, does not always mean being righteous. When the pharisees would attempt to debate Jesus, His responses were always full of love and grace. His objective was never to prove that He was right for the sake of being right. (He didn’t need to, He is God after all.) Jesus wanted to see heart change in people and in His righteousness He knew it would do no good to argue.

It is not in our nature as humans to do what is right. Every fiber of our being is to do what is pleasing to ourselves not what is pleasing to God. However, when we are saved, Jesus’s perfect righteousness is what gives us grace to be imperfect people. The Holy Spirit helps guide us in our decision making and protect us from being corrupted by the world just like the breastplate of a soldier keeps him from being penetrated by a sword.

 

The Right to Bear The Armor of God: The Belt of Truth

Ephesians 6:10-17

 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,”

The Bible speaks more about clothes than you might think, both figuratively and literally. From Genesis, Adam and Eve were clothed in animal flesh after they were shamed by their nakedness; to the purple robe worn by Jesus in the moments leading to His crucifixion and the white robes the martyrs will receive in Revelation. These details might seem obscure, but these garments all point to Jesus and our redemption.

In Ephesians, Paul is writing to people he had probably never met, but were fellow believers in Christ. He beautifully reminded them of their true identity in Jesus. He applauds them for their faith in Jesus, but also instructs them on how to treat each others as fellow believers. It is like Paul waits to teach about the Armor of God, so the reader has a clear understanding of the tools needed to achieve success in their relationships and their lives. He uses The Armor of God as an example to express how much of our daily battles can only be fought when our eyes are set on Jesus. Our war is not against bad guys and terrorists and the jerks we encounter in traffic. Our war is against the one roaming about seeking whom he may devour. When we realize the reality of Christ in us and He provides a covering over us, we are prepared for supernatural battle (Ephesians 6:12).

Paul calls the Ephesians to armor first with the Belt of Truth. What is truth? It’s JESUS! He is the way, the truth, and the life. Paul says, “…the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation (Ephesians 1:13). When we buckle up our belt of truth, we are putting on the foundation of our armor; the soldier’s belt held his sword in preparation for battle. Our daily devotion to the truth of who Jesus is and the power of His resurrection makes us conquerors over death and the grave. Jesus gives us that same resurrecting power (Matthew 10:1).Spiritually. Physically. Miraculously.

We must arm ourselves with truth, because each day we step out into a world ruled by the father of lies, the enemy. Knowing the truth helps discern right from wrong and real from fake. Knowing the truth destroys every lie.

We must remind ourselves that it is the gospel of the truth that sets men free. (John 8:32)

 

 

Feeling Fruity: Faithfulness

Galatians 5:22-23 Says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Being faithful is making the conscience choice, in every moment, to be in communion with God. If you are consistently in God’s presence you will inevitably display faithfulness because He is faithful.  Looking at each fruit, they individually reveal the characteristics of God. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. When showing the Fruits of the Spirit, you are showing His character and what He has done in you.

The characteristics of God are defined throughout the Bible:   

Love: 1 John 4:16 shows that God, Himself, is love. When we live in love we are living in Him and He lives in us. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2017/12/19/feeling-fruity-lovde/

Joy: Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. By sacrificing Himself, we would be with Him forever. That’s all Jesus has ever wanted. We are His joy. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/01/09/feeling-fruity-joy/

Peace: Isaiah 9:6 prophesied about the coming Messiah saying that His literal name would be Prince of Peace. He brings us the peace that surpasses all understanding. This peace can only come from Him, Our Savior. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/01/24/feeling-fruity-peace/

Patience: 2 Peter 3:9 gives a clear description of His patience when He waits for us to come to Him.  God is infinitely patient with us and gives infinite opportunities to receive His best. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2017/12/05/being-fruity-patience/

Kindness: Ephesians 2:7 says that God’s grace is expressed through His kindness. His kindness is what draws us to repentance. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/02/02/feeling-fruity-kindness/

Goodness: Psalm 34:8 tells us to taste and see God’s goodness.  His goodness is tangible. https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2017/12/13/feeling-fruity-goodness/

Faithfulness: Romans 3:3 explains that God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our faith in Him. He never fails us, even though every day we fall short of His glory.

Self-control: Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way, but unlike us, He never sinned. Because we have Him in us, we always have a way out of temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13) https://thegirlinthechurchpants.com/2018/01/01/feeling-fruity-self-control/

God is so loving that we are able to love others. He is joyful, so we are able to feel inexplicable joy in the midst of any circumstance. He is peaceful, therefore we have peace that is impossible to comprehend. He has unlimited patience for us, so we are able to endure anything life throws at us. God is kind, so we can be kind to even those that are unkind. His goodness enables us to do good things. He is faithful to His promises, not because of anything we deserve, but it is His grace that builds our faith in Him. God is completely self-controlled, everything He does is with purpose, even when we do not understand His purpose (which is most of the time.)

By growing these fruits in us, which can only come from God, our lives show a glimpse of Jesus. If we are living our moments with Jesus, our character becomes more like His.