Rude Vs. Kind

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

This morning I’m writing to you from my kitchen table. Even though I’m home today with a little man battling allergies, I’m filled with bone-deep peace. I wish I were a prolific writer, so I could fully describe the early morning beauty outside my window. The sun is weaving through the trees, and y’all, the breeze blowing through my window just speaks of fall. Can I get a collective pumpkin spice latte toast to this changing of season?

The challenge before me today is to write to you, my friend, about flesh vs. spirit in the context of rudeness vs. kindness. I know that the telling of a story is one of the most effective ways to communicate one’s heart. So, on this quiet fall morning, I’m tugging my mind back to a time when my life wasn’t as peaceful as it is today.

Let me set the stage for you. Seven years ago, give or take a few months, I had four children in the home. They were 16, 14, 10, and 2. The older three were all in some form of athletics on top of their demanding school schedules. I was at Wolfforth Methodist in full-time children’s ministry with my fingers dipped into several outreach ministries to keep my heart busy. I was stretched. I was alone. The father of my children was deep in a battle with alcoholism and was losing ground every day. I was hanging on by a fraying thread. 

I am an outspoken advocate for setting your children up for success, but this one Tuesday afternoon I had to make a quick trip to Target for dinner supplies in between work and picking up the older three from three different schools. I had to take my oh-so-exhausted-from-the-day two-year-old with me. It was a recipe straight out of the tattered “How to Raise your Children Better Than Your Parent’s Raised You” handbook. (Not a real book, but you know what I’m talking about, right?)

Disaster it was. He screamed throughout the entire store. Amid the frustrated looks from my fellow shoppers, there was one who stood out. She was on the journey with me. Through every isle and every turn, she was right there. Right there with me with the looks and the sighs and “the I can’t believe you brought your child into the store” frown upon her face. I couldn’t shake her. I bobbed. I weaved. I lingered. She was determined to travel with me. 

Finally, the checkout radiated before me, not unlike my vision of the pearly gates. I handed my little man a hundred-dollar bill to pay the weary cashier, and he wouldn’t let it go. What was I thinking?! He held onto that $100 bill with the same mighty grip he’d use on my red Sonic straw. You know the grip. I looked around to apologize for the wait, and who would be behind me in line? You guessed it! We made eye contact just as she threw her hands in the air and yelled (yes yelled) to all the surrounding shoppers, “Do you see this?! Do you see this?!” It was the final sword piercing my side. I was done. I was defeated. My thread was no longer frayed…it was worn completely in two. I remember climbing in my car that day with thoughts that could only be born of the enemy. I was a failure. I was not enough. I was a burden. I was done.

On this fall morning, I Iook back and wonder what if my fellow Target journeyman would have shown kindness in place of her exasperation…her rudeness? What if she had laid her hand on my shoulder and said, “it’ll be alright. This is just a season.” Would I have been encouraged? Refreshed? Through my story, my heart hopes for you to remember we don’t know the journey that others are traveling. The truth and the life challenge are that we are called to love one another…no matter what. We ALL have the capacity to be kind. It is written in our very DNA. God would not call us to love without equipping us to do so. Loving others is a choice. Rudeness is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Within you is the ability to bring a smile to the weariest of travelers. Challenge yourself to do so. Challenge yourself to live out the blessing of love and kindness. It carries the power to change lives, including your own!

We would like to thank Amy Davey for writing this blog post!

Indifferent Vs. Passionate

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

The proverbial fork in the road. We have all approached it many times in our lives. A decision must be made to go either left or right. The more you think about it, the more it begins to look like that epic cartoon where there’s an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each voice trying to convince you that their way is the best. We could call this the battle between the Spirit and the flesh or the war within.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.  But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.” Galatians 5:16

I recently encountered that fork in the road.  In May I ended a 25 year teaching career that was dear to my heart.  A year ago, I felt God downloading into my spirit that a change of season was coming into my life.  As I prayed about it, the picture became clearer that I needed to put an end to the career I have always known.  As peace entered my heart on that decision, here comes another voice planting doubts and fears into my mind.  That voice was reminding me that I wouldn’t have a regular paycheck coming in every month to pay bills. I couldn’t claim my early retirement for two more years and I didn’t have another job lined up to fill in the gap.

My flesh wanted to listen to the last voice and totally ignore what the Spirit was instilling in my heart.  After all, I have bills to pay and needs to be met. 

But, I was promptly reminded that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ.”  Philippians 4:19

As the battle continued, my flesh wanted all the visible, tangible “guarantees” that this world has to offer.  We might call that the broad or well traveled road; it’s the one that feels safe.  Matthew 7:13-14 reminds us “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter.”

Despite what the enemy or your flesh may tell you, God doesn’t intend for you to walk this path alone.  In order to be different and changed you must choose the narrow road.  It also means that not many are going to walk that path with you.  What really matters is the ONE who WILL be walking with you.  When I transferred the trust I had in myself and the promises of this world over to the living God and His kingdom, He started opening doors I didn’t even know were there.

“Don’t be anxious about anything.  Instead pray about everything.”  Philippians 4:6

Open your Bible and declare over yourself the truths and promises God has given you for your life.  Spending time with Him through prayer and worship will put those voices in perspective.  God does provide!

Ladies, through this Spirit versus flesh battle, we have to realize that we can’t change God or the enemy, but they BOTH can change us.  So which one are we going to follow and listen to?  One is out to deceive, kill, steal, and destroy while the other is out to love, guide and improve our lives.  The well traveled road may appear safe but isn’t necessarily the right road.  It caters to the flesh and provides temporary comforts.  The less traveled road might appear rough, but through the Spirit it leads to some AMAZING outcomes!  Faith pushes out guilt, fear and greed and gives us a hunger for God’s power.

Whatever battle you are fighting right now remember that through the cross Christ is faithful and has already conquered any battle we may have.  We have victory through Him over those worldly voices.  You are a daughter of the King and we can say Thank You God for making us overcomers!

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog!

Busy Vs. Intentional

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Crazy-busy is a great armor; it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do, is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” – Brene Brown

When I read this quote over a year ago, it stopped me in my tracks. I was busy. And yet, I kept picking more up. When I was in college, I knew that those who couldn’t sit in the silence had something wrong with their hearts. They were scared to stop – and yet, 12 years later, that is where I found myself – scared to stop. For me, as for many of us, our busyness is our numbing. It is our flesh’s attempt to keep the pain at bay. It’s the enemy’s attempt to keep us from what God really has for us – because if we are numbing the bad, we are also numbing the good.

I didn’t want my flesh to continue winning. I didn’t want the lies of culture which made me see busyness and exhaustion as symbols of status and productivity to keep winning. I wanted to seek and find victory in this area of my life. So with my eyes opened, I began to seek God’s truth over the busyness. One word began rolling around in my heart – intentional.

In everything I did, I began to monitor my heart, and my intentions in why I was doing it. When choosing how to spend my time, I began to ask some questions:

  • Why am I doing this? Am I doing it as unto the Lord, or unto man? (Col. 3:23)
  • Does this line up with my goals, vision, and God’s direction for my life?
  • I also began to ask, “Jesus, what do you want me to do with my time today?” (When I practice this consistently, I find that my productivity actually skyrockets, even though I don’t set out to do as many “things.”)

In addition to monitoring my heart and motives, I began to put some boundaries in place, to guard my heart, and my time. The Bible says that “Above all else, guard your heart” and I discovered that when I didn’t guard my time, the first things to go, were the things I had in place to guard my heart. Below are just a few ways I have found to guard my time:

1. Choose – You get to CHOOSE. For many years, I felt like my schedule was dictated by others. Whether this was my kids, husband, boss, co-workers, etc., I did not feel I had the power to choose how to spend my time. It was all already allotted for. I often felt swept away to care for everyone else’s needs and not my own. This is not a good place to live life from. And you know what? Not choosing, is still choosing. Be intentional.

2. Say No – As I learned to choose, I learned that one of my options was no. NO IS AN OPTION! So many times, we as women feel like we can’t say no, because we are going to let someone down, disappoint them, or leave them in a tough place. But the truth is – God will provide for them even as he provides for us. You can say no.

3. Make a Schedule – When I had my first child, and became a stay at home mom, I loved the flexibility that it provided me. I could go and do what and when I wanted, and take care of my business when it was convenient for me. This was all very true. But at some point, the flexibility of it became a hindrance to me. I believed that my flexibility was for everyone else’s benefit, and my business (laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) became the last things to get taken care of. By the time I had four kids…this was out of control. So, I made a schedule. Monday mornings, we clean, Wednesday mornings are meal-prep, Thursdays are other projects (cleaning out a closet, clearing a flower bed, other projects that just need to get done), and Fridays are for a little more fun. I now work part-time, so my afternoons, while my kids are napping, are for my work. Having a schedule, and some boundaries, has greatly changed how I am able to be intentional with my time.

4. Make Dinner in the Morning – As part of my schedule, I meal prep. For me, that means that on Wednesday mornings, I make all of our dinners for the month. I’m not a fan of cooking anyway, but I find that taking care of it in the morning, allows me to be fully present with my kids during those crazy afternoon hours between after school and dinner. This has changed our lives!

 5. Leave Margin – Leave some space! This way, when a friend calls, and wants to have a play date, or a family member needs help, you have the margin to do so if that is what you CHOOSE to do.

6. Be Where Your Feet Are – In an effort to intentionally use my time well, I try to be fully present. I used to think I was a master multitasker – but the truth is that multitasking just made me stressed and frustrated. I was never fully present wherever I was. I was always trying to get more done than just being there. Now that I’m fully present, I’m also much more pleasant 🙂

The real key to being intentional and not just busy? Walking with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your flesh.” My flesh, and my enemy want me to stay busy – just to keep me busy. To keep me distracted. But when I choose to slow down, and walk with the Spirit, He guides each and every step. Our victory over busyness has already been won, we just need to choose to walk that out – right beside the Holy Spirit.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this blog post!

Reframing Beauty – Part 2

Beauty. A word that truly has so many meanings in our world. A word that we have sometimes let define who we are, how we see others and the kind of worth we put on ourselves. We see magazine articles with titles that read “5 Steps to the NEW Beautiful You”, “Beauty Hacks You Never Knew”, “The 36 Most Exciting Beauty Products to Try in 2019”, you get the idea. Our world has turned the word “beauty” into something that can be obtained by the next product, the most popular spa service, the new outfit, or what we can DO to be like the girl in the magazine, the mom of 3 that just doesn’t age, or our friend that we long to look like. 

Unfortunately, the beauty industry has found a market that makes millions based on women’s insecurities. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you know me and follow me on my Divine Bliss Facebook and Instagram, you know I LOVE the next beauty product. I am all about it, as it is such a fun, creative, exciting hobby-turned-job for me. BUT, it is critical that we as women don’t find our true sense of happiness in a beauty that has been marketed. 

Song of Songs 4:7 says “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you”. When I think of things with “no flaw”, I think of precious, perfect, loved, pure, and unblemished. Now obviously, these things may not be a reality from the outside. I mean, we have all had blemishes. There are times we may not feel loved or perfect, but that isn’t what we are talking about here. 1 Peter 3:4 speaks to this. “Rather what is inside the heart… is great worth in God’s sight.”

True and perfect beauty comes from our identity in Jesus.

Another way I see beauty from within shine, is when we operate in the fruits of His spirit like in Galatians 5:22-23. For example, an act of love that is beautiful could be taking a friend’s kid to the park so that friend can have a much-needed break. I see the mercy given to the husband or child that made the same mistake, again. I see the selflessness of serving others, and genuinely taking the time to see the heart of those around us, not just going through the motions. God does not see our beauty as something physical as if we were models in a magazine, but He sees the true beauty in our hearts, spiritually, as the models of His fruits. 

At the same time, taking the word “beauty” out of it, God designed us to further His kingdom and to take care of ourselves while doing it. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. We hear a lot about “self-care” these days, and I truly believe we are hearing so much about it because we as women get so caught up in taking care of others, we forget to take care of us. In my profession as an esthetician, I get to see the benefits of women loving on themselves, therefore getting to love on others. Here are some practical self-care tips:

  • Take time to enjoy a spa service to refresh your soul, and relax, not just to check off a list to make you feel better about your insecurities. 
  • Invest in a good SPF to protect the natural beauty God has created in you.
  • Try out a new, fun lip gloss that brings out your confidence.
  • Treat yourself to a makeup tutorial because it is FUN to you, not because you are trying to “keep up”.
  • Get a pedicure with a friend to catch up and sow into relationships. 

The beauty industry, unfortunately turned somewhat superficial, doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There are so many different areas in this industry that can be good for you by brightening your soul and filling your cup, so that you can shine bright for the most beautiful One. 

It’s not about what we wear, it’s not about trying to be like someone else. It IS about WHO we are in Christ. It IS about the true beauty the Lord has put in each of us and it IS about being able to express ourselves confidently. Who is ready to reframe beauty with me?

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this blog post!

Undo Shame

In Brene Brown’s words, “Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we have experienced, done, or failed to do make us unworthy of connection.”

Shame is one of the first things introduced into the world after Adam and Eve sin. And what did they do as a direct response to their sin? They hid. They covered up. They lied. They blamed. I can identify with their shameful feelings and their reaction to those feelings. What are some things you and I hide behind or use to cover up our shame? We use busyness, procrastination, alcohol, pride, eating, social media, vanity, shopping/spending, our careers, perpetual lying…

Self-identity shame comes in all forms and fashions. This is a list of some lies I have believed during different seasons in my life directly resulting from shame:

  • I will never be good enough.
  • I am unclean.
  • I have failed.
  • Something must be wrong with me.
  • I am not qualified.
  • I am unwanted.
  • I’m not as pretty as {insert name here}.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My kids literally acted like animals in public. I must be a bad mom.
  • I literally acted like an animal to my children. I must be a bad mom.
  • My kids were rude to a bunch of people today. I must be a bad mom.
  • Why doesn’t my marriage look as happy as theirs? I must be a bad wife.

Can anyone relate??

Have you ever thought about how our culture makes money off of making women feel less than? That if you would just buy that one thing it will make your life better. For example, if you use this product on your cellulite, it will make it go away and you will be prettier. So therefore, if you have cellulite, something must be wrong. Hmmmm. You just took a bite from the forbidden fruit called marketing. So, you buy the cellulite product only to see zero results. Then you stop using it and swallow the lie that you just won’t ever be perfect enough.

BOLOGNA!

And what about social media? How does it tell you daily that you are less than? I’m not even going there. Ladies, so much of our brain power goes into shaming ourselves for the way we look. Something, somewhere is always screaming to us that we are defective. The truth is: we have been fed lies and manipulation for years.

We learn to fixate our thoughts on those feelings. For many years, I believed the lies the devil was feeding me. I strived and strived to become good enough. I stuffed and stuffed to become happy enough. I hid and hid to seem “ok” enough. It was a toxic, vicious cycle. That affects everyone at some point.

How did I break it?

  1. Attending Freedom in Christ – This was a huge part pf my healing. My eyes were opened to the unconditional love my Savior has for me. For the first time, I heard the truth that I am right with God. There is nothing that I have done in my past, nor will do in the future, that will change my value in Christ. Mistakes, failures, scars, and all, he accepts it and loves it! I learned that my works-based righteousness wasn’t going to help my issues. I couldn’t do better, act better, or be better to please God. This took time breaking my old thought patterns and creating new ones, but daily surrendering those and allowing the Lord to speak his truths over my heart changed me!
  • A loving friend called me one day and said, “JuLea, I think you need help”. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for her to tell me that and, quite frankly, I was embarrassed. But I knew she was right. I reached out for help. I started seeing a counselor and still do to this day. There is such a stigma associated with counseling, but what is so crazy about seeking wise help?

When we learn to identify this within ourselves, we can then start the change. Undoing the shame of my struggle was a catalyst to my healing.

The lies women struggle with are all different. But the path to identifying those lies are all the same. Don’t let fear hold you captive to your struggles. Shame has a way of isolating us. And isolation FEEDS our shame. So the result is more isolation and more shame. Exactly what the devil wants.

Shame is simply an emotion. Emotions are part of every human experience. You are human. Offer yourself grace TODAY!

Breaking these thought patterns about ourselves takes time, patience, and a lot of will power. Breath by breath, you will rise out of the waters. To not drown, you HAVE to move your arms, lift your head, and MOVE forward. Shame will begin losing its power over you. God helped me face and overcome shame and He will help you, too!

The good news is the discussion about your value and ability is OVER. It was decided on the cross.

YOU ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE. Created for good works. God made you just the way you are. God is a perfect God – He doesn’t make mistakes.

You are WHOLE, COMPLETE, FLAWLESS, LACKING NOTHING. Jesus is your righteousness and your provider of everything you need. Philippians 4:19

Here are a few practical ways that can help you start winning your battle over shame that helped me:

  1. Pray, pray, pray in the spirit on every occasion without ceasing.
  2. FORGIVE YOURSELF.
  3. Live in a constant state of worship.
  4. Write notes on the bathroom mirror or the car to remind you of your value.
  5. Set an alarm every 30 min. to declare a truth of scripture over yourself. (Really, JuLea?!? YES, do it!!)
  6. Hang around life giving people who speak life into who you are in Christ, not who you were.
  7. See a counselor. Get help. Reach out to someone. Bring it to light. (This was huge!)

Believe what your Heavenly Father says about who you are today… not your social media. Our minds are a battlefield. Jesus died on the cross and has already won that battle you are facing today. Claim that ground back. Defeat shame and claim victory today.

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for writing this post.

A Standard of Grace

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. I know I wanted to hear everyone, so this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

A Standard of Grace. It sounds like such an unusual phrase, and it is. Standard, simply put, means a way to measure, value, or judge something. Grace, means to honor or credit to, to show favor, goodwill, or kindness. 

So, a “Standard of Grace?” This would mean that our measuring system, for ourselves, and others, is one that is based on favor, goodwill, and kindness. 

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a woman that measures myself and those around me by a standard of grace. Unfortunately, we see so little grace in our culture today. What inhibits us? What keeps us from living this lifestyle?

Perfectionism just so happens to be the reason this phrase “Standard of Grace” was first brought to my attention. It has gained popularity as part of a longer phrase, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”  Perfectionism is a wicked master, one that keeps us all working our hardest to continually prove and perform. Perfectionism doesn’t allow us to show ourselves kindness, over even the least of mistakes. It doesn’t allow us room to breathe, doesn’t offer forgiveness when we have been anything less than, well, perfect. Perfectionism keeps us quiet about our mistakes, so that the impression of perfection can remain intact. 

1. Perfectionism

IF we can’t offer ourselves a little kindness when a mistake is made, how can we ever expect that we will genuinely offer it to others?

IF we can’t break free from our own silence, and be vulnerable about our weaknesses, our fears, our doubts, how will anyone ever feel safe coming to us with theirs?

IF we don’t react to ourselves with grace, we won’t extend it to others either. 

2. Insecurity

Where as perfection says you can’t fall short in any area, ever, our insecurities whisper lies to us a little more specifically. Our insecurities are the areas where we consistently feel “not enough.” The areas where, when we look over and see the someone who is enough, or who is more than enough, it brings pain.

Insecurities are the places in our hearts where fear and pain preside, and light has a hard time finding it’s way in.

Offering grace to ourselves in one of these areas, just feels like affirming our own lack of worth. Offering it to others, often feels disingenuous, false. We can find ourselves making excuses for why we struggle, and why they don’t. It ends up being an unkind situation to anyone that finds themselves in it, and brings honor to no one. 

3. Judgement

Judgement, typically stems from one of the other two. It’s not safe to offer grace to someone if they are highlighting our imperfections and insecurities. But, for many of us, it is probably the easiest of the three to identify as well. Being critical and judging others is like the bloom on a plant. It’s the part we see first, the part of the plant we use to identify what type of plant we are looking at. For me, when I find myself being critical, and judging others, I know it’s time to take a step back, and look at what is going on underneath the surface. In doing that, I have to step back and ask myself a couple of questions:

  1. What in the world is really going on here? What am I actually feeling right now?
  2. How can I extend kindness and grace, to myself, or to someone else, in this moment? 

But here’s the good news: Grace has another meaning as well. God’s ability. Grace is God’s standard. It is His standard toward us on our best days and on our worst. And God freely gives of His grace, His ability.

This is the reason that pausing, and asking why you can’t offer grace and kindness in the moment, works. Because it invites God’s presence, his perspective, and his heart, into that moment with you. 

Choosing to let grace be the standard by which we measure ourselves and others doesn’t come naturally. But God is right there for us, saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Let his grace, become your standard, because we cannot extend grace on our own. 

“Grace is God acting in our lives to do what we cannot do on our own.” 
- Dallas Willard

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this post.