Chaos Vs. Peace

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!

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2, NLT).

There’s no doubt about it: our physical health and our spiritual health are connected. But when you start bringing up the topic of mental health, most people tend to get squirmy. There is so much stigma around “mental health issues.” But what is it, exactly? And how does taking care of our mental health tie into our role as Christians?

Mental health is simply a broad term for how the chemicals in our brain are affecting our emotions. Those emotions, in turn, will affect the way we react to (and interact with) the world around us.

God has created our brains to work together with our bodies in amazing ways. But because we live in a world that’s not perfect, sometimes people have an imbalance of the needed chemicals in their brain. This might cause them to struggle more than others with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.

If you struggle in these areas, does that make you a bad person? No. Does that make you a broken person? No. Does that make you less of a Christian? No.

I love how Romans 7:24 through chapter 8, verse 2 puts it:

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Jesus was in a human body just like we are. He knows the struggles we face.

My friend, let me assure you of this: It is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in taking pills if you need them. Sometimes we need the medications to get our brains on track (putting the chemicals back into balance) before we can make other good choices for our lives. There is no shame in seeing a counselor if you need to. There is no shame in taking care of your mental health, just like you take care of your physical health. The Holy Spirit has freed you of that shame because of what Jesus did! He has broken the power of shame and sin over your life. You can walk in the abundant life He has called you to.

Some simple tips for taking care of your mental health may seem obvious. But so often, these are the first things to go in our own personal lives:

– Getting enough sleep

– Getting enough sunshine/vitamin D

– Surrounding yourself with life-giving friends

– Staying hydrated

– Eating healthy foods

– Keeping active

– Taking time to do things you enjoy

– Going to the doctor: Check vitamin and mineral levels; Check hormone levels; Get on needed medications

– Going to a professional counselor 

You have the responsibility to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. As Mary Oliver has famously written: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Be courageous and take care of your body, so that you are able to do all the wonderful things God has put in front of you to do (Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 13:21). You are worth it.

Because we live in a world that’s not perfect, we are all broken in some ways. But we don’t have to be defined or labeled by our brokenness. We are new creations (1 Cor. 5:17)!

God has chosen to work through people in building His Church, but people are imperfect. I’m sorry if people in the church have hurt you with their words or their actions. That is not okay. Please forgive me on their behalf for how you have been treated. 

Please know that you have a valuable role in the Church. You have a place here. There is a space only you can fill. All of your story–including your mental health–matters. Don’t hold back because of your struggles. Get the help you need. Be brave and ask for help. And then offer your gifts, your personality, and your heart to those around you. We need YOU.

We would like to thank Heather Dillard for writing this post!

Worry Vs. Trust

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!

As I sit here and think about what to write, all I can do is worry that I am not going to write this the way it should be written. I worry that no one is going to like it. I worry, “why me? I am not capable of writing a blog about worry when all I do is worry.”

I am in a battle with my flesh right now, and I think that as women, we do this a lot more than we realize. What I do know is that when I worry, I have to remind myself who I am in Christ. The truth of our Father has to be louder than the lies of the enemy. I am an overcomer. I am righteous. I am loved. I am capable of all things, and I am made perfect in Christ. So are you. God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.

I am sitting at my computer looking out into an empty classroom. I look around my classroom and think, “Wow! How did I get here?” This classroom and this job are examples of how I choose to trust God instead of worrying. It took me a really long time to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Once I decided to go back to school and become a math teacher, it seemed like my life finally started to fall into place. Through this journey I had to trust God that He knew what was right for me. 

The first interview I received was with the high school. My certification was not high school math; it was middle school. I took the interview because it had been a long time since I had interviewed for a job. I left and within a few hours received a call offering me the job. Boy, did the worry set in! Not only was it a new job, but I would also have to take another state test to get my high school certification. This terrified me! I have never been so nervous and so hard on myself. 

Some of the things that I told myself were, “I can’t teach high school math,” “I cannot pass the state test,” “God, why!?” I remember distinctly one morning while getting ready, God laid on my heart a song we sing with our littles in Kid City. “My God is so big so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!” During this song, He reminded me that He knows what is best and He sees the future. Even after that gentle reminder, I still worried.  

He then gave me a verse that I now have on my wall. It is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In that moment, I said, “Ok God, I trust that you know what is best for my life and my family.” 

We just got through teaching our kids in Kid City that we can trust God through our ups and downs and have faith that He sees the big picture from beginning to end. We cannot see the end, but He can. If you feel yourself in the midst of worry, surround yourself with people that will lift you up and encourage you. In the midst of your ups and downs, try to find something positive on which to place your focus. When you can focus on something good, the worry seems to fade away, and you receive peace in knowing that God does have a plan for you. It is so supernatural crazy the peace He gives when we choose to trust Him instead of worrying. He is a good, good Father

Lastly, remember who you are in Christ. Just as I tell each and every one of the kids in Kid City, “You are made from Christ, and you are made perfect in every way!”

We would like to thank Kaylene Vanbebber for writing this post!

Educators, Be Encouraged!

There is a HUGE message from God’s heart that wants to go forth. It’s a message that wants to take root and produce a harvest of blessing in the hearts of educators around the world. There is a real enemy that is trying to steal position and identity. If that feat is successful, then the purposes of God in our schools can be negatively influenced. But guess what?  There is a powerful weapon against the enemy that prevails, and that is a healthy, strong, and confident teacher!  

Education changes the world; it is the gateway into the hearts and minds of children. That’s why the most important job is that of a teacher. Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to receive wisdom than gold! To receive understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”  Proverbs 4:13 says, “I keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”  

The life and value of a teacher goes beyond even their own belief sometimes. Scripture tells us that the impartation of knowledge and wisdom are better than gold. The enemy knows that if he can attack a teacher’s worth, his/her value, their identity in who they are, then the powerful work of Christ can be negatively impacted. God created a special gifting in teachers. To truly see the difference they make in the world, you only have to travel down the road to our local classrooms.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is on full display!

There you will find a love for children that is indescribable. You will find joy even in hard times and seasons. The patience that exudes from teachers is newsworthy. Chaos is brought to peace with a soft spoken word. A kind word is offered to the discouraged. Week in and week out teachers are faithful to bring their very best. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle affirmation to make a child’s day.

There may be many teachers and parents reading this today that doubt their value. School has started back, and there may be times of struggle and times where it would be easier to do something different and make a whole lot more money. But if you are a teacher, a homeschool parent, or any other kind of educator, you are set apart, gifted, anointed, and called to a group of students who need just what you are. There is no one better to change the world than YOU! There is no one better to show the love of Christ to the next generation than YOU! YOU make the difference. YOU determine the outcome of a child’s year. YOU are planting the seeds that will one day produce fruit that will change the word. 

The next time you are bombarded with discipline, curriculum, expectations, administrative expectations, or parents, just remember: you are worth far more than gold, and your instruction is worth guarding and protecting. Stand today in the high position that God has called you to. Stand today for children around the world that need you. Stand today because you know your worth comes from Jesus. Out of that worth, what is poured into our children WILL change the world!

We would like to thank Amy Meek for writing this 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!

Reframing Beauty – Part 1

The health and beauty industry are two in the same. They have both realized that there is a HUGE draw to perfection, and they hold the secret, or so we’re told. The next best diet, newest face cream, pills, exercise routine, you name it. They convey the message that, without possessing these things, you’ll never meet the standard. The perfectly touched up models are used as our bait, and more times than not, we take it. You know what is missing in the picture? Your true value. They don’t know you like Christ does. They don’t have a high regard for your heart and soul like Christ does. They don’t see your worth without all of the products like Christ does! They make diet pills, not people. If I were to weigh the difference between the process of the two, I’d say that creating people uniquely different takes the cake! Watch this:

Genesis 2:21-23 NIV

So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. 

You weren’t built in a factory and injected with different genes and personality. God doesn’t take His job in creating each of us lightly and how we treat His intricacy shouldn’t be taken lightly either. 

My point is not that investing in your health and adorning yourself is something that we should cease doing. However, my point is that if our heart doesn’t line up with our Maker’s about who we are created to be, if we’re placing more value in lipstick or pounds lost, spending more time crying as we look in the mirror than spending time in HIS word, we will always crave something new. Our thirst will never be quenched by industries designed to keep you thirsty. 

I recently experienced a kind of freedom that I was unaware of until my husband pointed it out. We went to dinner with friends and I wore the FIRST outfit I tried on without over analyzing it. We simply left and enjoyed the evening. That may not sound like a big deal to some. But to me, that’s a huge deal! I used to be the woman who would try on everything in her closet, hate it all, try it all on AGAIN, then break out into tears before we could go anywhere. Sounds exhausting, because it was! For myself AND my husband. It never set a positive tone for the event. 

I realized that it wasn’t a matter of how physically fit I was or wasn’t at the time, it was a condition of my heart. I wasn’t loving myself. I was living in a toxic relationship with MYSELF. A form of my self-hatred and pity appeared in piles of clothes on the floor. And I thought this was normal! It’s not! It doesn’t have to be your normal! 

I’m going to show you how digging deeper into my relationship with Christ helped me realize that my worth was greater than I realized! My constant prayer that I speak over myself is this:

“Lord, thank You for the purpose that You placed within me. Thank You for sowing seeds of self-worth within my heart. I receive Your truth about who You say I am. Thank You for making me whole, lacking nothing. Thank You for showing me Your reality and making it mine too.”

If you’ll notice something, I’m speaking truth and healing and thanking God for those things even as I work toward those things. Speaking life and provision over my shortcomings and welcoming a heart that is accepting of healing. If you struggle with leaving piles in your home, check your heart.

You can invest in your health and beauty regimen without a longing to be someone else.

You know how I know? Because God placed a huge value in every detail of your being. All we have to do is own it. No overthinking, just own it. With that comes peace from the inside that translates to the outside.

Proverbs 3:15-18 NIV

She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. 

That’s worth! Worth that is already inside of you simply by being the daughter of The King! Walk in that truth every single day, friends!

We’d like to thank Bonnie Kate Olson for writing this 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.

One Word

With the new year coming, most of us already have things we want to change… to do differently… to start over on… we want a fresh clean slate and a new focus. I want to share with you an idea that has helped me so much the last few years, hoping it might help you too.

It’s the simple practice of choosing ONE WORD for the upcoming year. Not a phrase, not a statement, just a single word. In reality, it’s not choosing a word, but asking the Lord to reveal what one word HE wants to be your focus for 2019. Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, which are easy to fail at, a one-word focus can simplify your life, illuminate your path and bring direction and boundaries in all areas of your life.  

The first year I did this, I immediately knew what my word would be. 

BOLDNESS.  

This word was both exciting and terrifying to me, because I was timid to speak up, afraid to be in front of people, and more comfortable hiding in the background than leading out front. But God had put a desire for boldness inside of me, and I knew without it, I could never become who God meant for me to be. I just needed my Father to open my heart to where he was moving, and I needed to agree to walk hand in hand with him as he strategically put opportunities and challenges in front of me.  

Challenges that would draw boldness out of me.  

He gave me courage to say YES to speaking up with my thoughts and opinions, speaking in public (even in front of hundreds!), taking risks, praying big prayers, leading out front, and so much more. He showed me over and over what BOLDNESS looks like in me, and he did not let me fail at what I was fearful of.   

When you start asking the Lord for a word for 2019, the Holy Spirit will begin revealing a word that agrees with what your heart longs for. It could be a character trait, a discipline, a fruit of the Spirit, an attribute of God, a spiritual gift.  But it will take a relationship with the Lord to stay focused and listen and follow where he is leading. There will be highs and lows as God uses this word to light up your path, and also reveal things that need to change. But remember, the Lord is giving you this focus not to see you fail, but to help you succeed in the plans He has for you and His Kingdom. 

If you’re serious about this, you’ll come up against tough decisions and opposition. I suggest sharing your word with a few trusted friends so that when discouragement comes, or when you get distracted, they can help you re-focus. An important way to keep this word front and center in your life is to post it in places where you will see it often, like your car, your desk, or your bathroom mirror. I have a cute little 2×3 frame that sits on my desk and reminds me often of my word. I also love making these for my friends and encouraging them to stay the course throughout the year. See the attached photo above of the frames I made for my friends. Super simple.

This year my word has been TRUST. From a car wreck in February that could have ended my life, to unexpected challenges in health, leadership and relationships, the Lord has so much more deeply established my trust in Him. I’m pretty sure I already know what my word is for 2019, and as usual, it’s both exciting and scary!  

I wonder what your word will be?! If you ask God, I know he will show you and walk with you step by step to places you thought you could never go. Your word will be greater than yourself, but not greater than our powerful and loving Father GOD. 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 109:105

“No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14.

We would like to thank Jill Moudy for writing this post!