Netflix and wine…by Adrienne Yerzy

Adrienne Yerzy
Adrienne Yerzy

A few weeks ago on a Friday night, I was home alone, watching Netflix, drinking wine, and eating popcorn – a classic single woman’s night in the man-desert. The only things missing were three cats and a pair of slippers. Anyway, on my second glass of wine I had a ‘fantastic idea’ to join a dating site for a month to see if there was anyone out there because to be honest, there has been no “Polo!” to my “Marco?” lately.

It’s embarrassing to admit because I’m afraid of what others will think, but after a heart-crushing breakup, I just needed to know there are real men out there, somewhere, anywhere. Next morning I woke up thinking,

“Oh no! What have I done?!”

But the deed was done, and the proof was on my credit card statement, so I decided to rock this new experience for 30 days.

I looked around the website, but found that my responses generally went like this: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, HECK NO!” Ultimately, it became yet another place tempting me to find my identity in what others thought of me, my pictures, or my profile. Don’t get me wrong, my profile was awesome, and it felt great when I received alerts that someone was interested, but my phone was controlling me, and I hate that. I was beginning to find my worth in who or how many liked me.

But an online dating site isn’t the only place where we’re tempted to find our value in what people think of us, is it? I mean, getting your photo liked on Instagram is pretty gratifying, and having someone share what you said on Facebook can puff up your self-esteem, and don’t get me started on how desirable you can feel when an important Executive adds you to their LinkedIn list of acquaintances. There are so many ways we try to satisfy our need to feel valued, and very few of them require commitment or hard work. We want to feel valued quickly, without having to invest time in our character.

I’m reminded that my worth is determined by Jesus. Without Him, I am just another face in the billions. I am not Angela Merkel, Tina Fey, or Mother Theresa, and that acknowledgment actually brings me freedom. I don’t have to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated to matter. I am valuable because God created me. By giving me breath He says I matter to Him and I have a purpose.

There are a lot of verses I could put in here, but quite frankly, I’ve run out of space. So go read your Bible and find out what God wants to say to YOU. Because you ARE valuable, you just need to go to the right source to hear it. Sometimes living this thing means stepping back from people and media in order to hear what God is saying, and that’s what just living the thing means to me this week.

 

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Not all voices are the same…

Author, Colleen Fraioli
Author, Colleen Fraioli

I have an input hangover.

Yesterday I searched and googled every possible option regarding a future decision and found advice and opinions out the wahzoo! By the end of the day I was overwhelmed and in need of an epiphany. Or a lobotomy. Or both.

This morning something occurred to me: why would I assume that God would speak to me through the voices of those around me rather than His own voice? Why do I allow social media, or culture, or “professionals” to take priority in determining His will, especially if I haven’t even asked Him?

If I don’t pray first, this wave of stress and inertia I’m riding is most likely contrary to what God is calling me to.

So today I’m not opening my IPad. Instead, I’m listening for His Voice. The most comforting passage I know is John 10 where the Shepherd leads the sheep off trail and into pasture, and I decide to just stop the madness and graze for a minute.

Here, Jesus promises rest. Not a nap, necessarily, (although that couldn’t hurt).

“When He puts forth all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him because THEY KNOW HIS VOICE.  And a STRANGER they simply will NOT follow, but will flee from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5

For me, following the Shepherd’s voice is an invitation to rest. He enables me to drop the plates He never asked me to spin, to take the world off my shoulders He never asked me to carry, and to ignore the fictitious people with their imaginary report cards ready to judge me for all the things I’m not doing well. When I tell all the voices in my head to be quiet, I realize they are insignificant nobodies who don’t even matter.

All that matters is what He says.

In this quiet space with Him I am reminded that prayer is a dialogue, not a duty. It is intimate conversation, not hurried confessions and pleas for help on the fly.  It’s not another thing on my to-do list, it is my to-do list.

As I sit in His presence, the veneer peels off to reveal most of my stress is borrowed worry from something that has not even happened yet, and probably won’t.

“Anxiety is that which divides and distracts the soul, that which diverts us from present duty to weary calculations of how to meet conditions that may never arrive.  It’s the habit of crossing bridges before we reach them.”  Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart

God’s voice frees me from the power of the voices of “strangers”. Unlike the conjecture of mere mortals, His wisdom is based on the fact that He actually knows everything. He is my guide, my provider, my understanding. I don’t need to search elsewhere. When He is in His rightful place in my soul, I find that elusive balance I have been chasing like the wind… just living the thing.

 

Getting Answers… by Ann Marie

prayerGrowing up in church I was taught repeatedly that when you ask God for something, He usually gives one of three answers, “Yes”, “No”, or “Wait”.  However, in my 40+ years of living this thing I have experienced a couple other responses that continue to deepen my relationship with Him.

First I believe God sometimes answers me with a loving but firm, “Do it yourself.”  Too often I don’t recognize resources God has already given me that could be applied to my need, or I may know about them, but doggone it, I had other plans for that and I don’t want to change them!

For example, I had every intention of going to Jamaica this summer to support a project that is near and dear to my heart, a summer camp for boys who live in the inner city surrounded by poverty and extreme violence.  Then in short order I had to replace the microwave, stove, and water heater in my six-year-old house!

I was not happy, and felt even more discouraged when there was no supernatural or miraculous supply of extra money that would preserve the money for my trip, or my tiny savings, which were so meaningful and significant to me after years of financial struggle.

But I made a decision some years ago to not whine or complain when something like this happens because, first, “…His way is perfect…” (Psalm 18:30), and second, when the day comes and I step into eternity I’m going to know exactly why He made me use what I already had.  I would be soooooooo embarrassed to discover how perfectly God was loving me, while I was busy giving Him attitude.

I Kings 5:1-19 recounts the story of Naaman, “a great and honorable man”, who heard God could cure his leprosy.  He expected God’s prophet would “wave his hand over the place and heal the leprosy.”  Nope!  He was told to go dip himself seven times in the less-than-pristine (read nasty) river Jordan.  He was furious, but was eventually persuaded to get over his pride and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, …”

And speaking of pride, I really struggle when God answers, “Ask for help.”  Kill me now!  Aaaaahmmm, I am asking…God.  I’m asking you! Right?

It destroys my pride when I have to ask people for help.  I’ve had too many bad experiences where ‘help’ either comes with condescension, or expectations of reciprocation firmly attached, or the giver begins to ‘take liberties’.

More than anyone else we believers in Jesus Christ need to get giving and receiving right.  We must build honest, God-honoring, community where we can give generously without fear of being taken advantage of, and can ask for help respectfully and humbly without fear of “owing” something, or being stripped of our dignity.  Maybe practice does make perfect.

I cannot predict, define, or demand God’s answers to my prayers, but I absolutely know they will always be perfectly designed to help me,  …just living the thing.

Re-purposed…by Wendy Morgan

WendyRe-purposed.  The word makes me happy, giddy actually. It allows me to justify rescuing ‘treasures’ from the side of the road or from a farmer’s burn pile. It justifies my growing pile of birch branches and reclaimed wood that has taken over one corner of our yard.

It also makes me laugh because my husband cringes when he hears any word that starts with ‘Re-‘.  Tongue in cheek, he has forbidden me to bring home anything that needs to be Re-painted, Re-furbished, Re-done……you get the picture.  Nevertheless, I am constantly rescuing something that is ragged and useless for its original purpose, and trying to get Dave to envision the hidden beauty.

Seeing beauty in the broken and giving new life is the loving story of God’s redemption. When I sought the Lord He “repurposed” my life and gave me a new name. My name appropriately means wanderer but my new name, Child of God, means heir to the throne, daughter of the King. Where once my life was ragged and broken God turned it into something beautiful. Where once my life had no meaning, it now has purpose.

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God,…”         Psalm 40: 2-3a

When God redeems us He lifts us out of the pit and makes us a new creation. He cleans off the dirt and stains and sands down the rough edges. However, we can end up in that pit again; because of bad choices, or life circumstances that push us down that slippery slope.

I slid down that slope head first the day I was told I had stage 3 breast cancer.  It is impossible to bring glory to God from the pit so it’s not a place you want to hang your hat for long. Praise the Lord, He gave me a new song to sing and pulled me out;

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

 In the morning my fear was gone. My strength was renewed and I felt that “peace that passes understanding”. I knew my faith was being tested and strengthened. I knew that I could use my ordeal to bring glory to God and be a comfort to those who were traveling the same road behind me and just like that I had a new purpose.

Jeremiah 31:4 says, “Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt,”

I am thankful for a God that is “greater than our weakness, greater than our brokenness and big enough to bring beauty out of ashes.” from Repurposed by Colleen Fraioli

Cancer could have left me on the side of life’s road broken, ragged, and useless for my original purpose.  Instead, God has truly re-purposed me again to keep on… just living the thing.

Beyond Shattered Dreams…by Sonna Evans

sonnaUnless you’ve been living under a rock your whole life, you have had some dreams shatter; we all have. Exactly five years ago today one of my dreams shattered into a million pieces. My marriage of almost 20 years ended in a nanosecond, and with it hundreds of other dreams were also in pieces.

There are times in our lives when things don’t go the way we had planned. In those times we have choices. We can stay there and potentially get stuck in hurt, sorrow, resentment and pain, or we can trust that God knows what He is doing and has a plan for us in, and through the pain.

When my marriage ended I was in a state of shock and disbelief. Many dreams were shattered: growing old together, financial security, companionship, the prospect of being grandparents together. Five years later, after finishing college, I am working with women in crisis. Would I be doing this if I were still married? Probably not.

Cancer struck when I was 41 years-old and it was devastating!  The dream that I was a young, healthy woman was shattered. Five and a half years later, I am now working with cancer patients providing them with hope and encouragement. Would I be doing this if I had never had cancer? No!

I believe that we have dreams, desires, goals and such and God has dreams, desires, goals and such, for us; sometimes they are not one in the same. What I know is that what God has for me is so much greater than what I could ever imagine for myself. So, when a dream is shattered I have to ask myself, “Is there something else God has in mind?”

In his book, Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb writes,

“There’s never a moment in all our lives, from the day we trusted Christ till the day we see Him, when God is not longing to bless us. At every moment, in every circumstance, God is doing us good. He never stops. It gives Him too much pleasure. God is not waiting to bless us after our troubles end. He is blessing us right now, in and trough those troubles. At this exact moment, He is giving us what He thinks is good.”

God has been faithful through these life-altering circumstances. He has shown me how to walk with Him in the midst of pain and heartache. He has walked right beside me every step of the way.

I don’t have some of the same dreams I had five years ago and to tell you the truth, I am not sure what the future holds, but I know it is bright. I know this because God holds my future. I may still dream things that may never come to fruition and I may still have my heart broken, but this one thing I know for sure: God’s got my best in mind so I don’t need to worry as I am…just living the thing.