Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conquering Joy

My personal blog has been focused on "the testimony of One" for the past few years. It has reflected my heart and the purpose in why I write. Whether anyone else reads it or not, I want what I write to reflect what God is doing in my life ... and remember it all when time has stolen the details.

Sometimes my writings simply reflect a heart that is brutally honest, without yet reflecting God's tender interference in moving me forward. Sometimes my writings document what I've learned in any given moment, on any given day. And sometimes my writings are nothing more than a reminder to me of a particular experience that I don't want to forget.

So here I am, changing it all up. I'm not leaving my testimonies behind, I am simply moving forward with a changed perspective and focus ... Conquering Joy. A change in blog title wasn't really on my radar, but I found myself having to make a change based on the complexities of having too many Google account names. Instead of trying to rise above the minutia of too many details to fix, I simply wiped the slate clean and decided to re-create, start from scratch. And then this title came to me; one of those moments where God whispers in my ear.

At first I thought conquering joy was kind of an oxy-moronic title. Did they really go together? But then I looked up the word conquer and this is what I found:

Conquer: to take possession of by force or authority; to overcome by conquest.

I liked the whole thought of taking possession of joy by authority. JOY is a fruit of the Spirit, but it is also a feeling. I have to choose to live in it, just as I would choose to be content...or not. Yes, the Holy Spirit deposits joy in my life, but He'll never force feed it to me.

And then I had this thought: God knows that taking possession of joy in every situation in my life has the potential to bring about unspeakable change. My testimonies will continue to be recorded, but think about the glory [of God] they will reflect if written through a filter of joy?

JOY.PEACE.HOPE.GLORY (see blog I wrote at the beginning of the year: Moving Forward)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Conquering JOY is necessary in moving forward to PEACE. HOPE. & GLORY.!

Thank you, Lord, for continuing to show me why you purposed my focus for 2010 on these things. You are so incredibly faithful and I love the way you surprise me with revelatory moments such as these.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Choose Life

2009 was a year where my husband and I experienced some of the greatest lows followed by some mountaintop highs. In August, after months of searching, God opened a door to a great job for my husband when self-employment no longer was feasible. And come September, after losing our house to foreclosure, God moved us into another home.

Autumn came and went without a glitch, and winter hit in December like a raging bull in a china shop; and continued its assault right through February. And then spring rolled in and it was like my husband and I awoke in March from a six-month slumber; suddenly aware that we weren’t connected anymore like we had been. Between a new home and a new job, we had gone through some pretty significant changes. All the routines we had had when Anthony worked from home had been turned upside down and it became clear that while neither of was paying attention, our priorities had shifted.

At the end of March, I made the decision to ask for a three month sabbatical from writing for Destiny In Bloom because I knew I had hit a wall spiritually and emotionally and needed a radical perspective shift.

Throughout the next few months, God richly deposited His wisdom into my life in three main areas: Identity, Marriage and Dreams. Today, my focus is marriage. I wanted to share with you just a few of the most important things I learned because I don’t believe I’m the only one who has walked through, or is currently struggling in, a difficult season in their marriage.

Lesson #1: Priorities Matter

A new life schedule had knocked us out of our routine and we didn’t do a good job making sure the proper priorities stayed in order. When Anthony worked from home, we had all the time in the world to talk about whatever was going on, so we kind of took time for granted. Now we faced days where time felt like it moved quicker than a New York minute and free hours of conversation turned into moments we had to purposely grab. We both allowed other priorities to swallow up the time we could have used for each other, and when your marriage takes a back seat to anything other than your relationship with God, one can’t expect a good outcome.

Lesson #2: Burn Out

When life brings about big changes, responsibilities can shift. Between his commute and work hours, Anthony wasn’t available for the things we had partnered in before. It’s not his fault; it’s just the way our lives were altered. I found myself needing to take on more of the chauffeuring assignments and the nighttime schedule of youth groups, baseball practices and other kid-friendly time demands went from feeling carefree to cumbersome. I reached my own mini-burn out and instead of being honest about it and seeking change, I just allowed myself to grow resentful. You may be there, too.

Have the time demands of home schooling your kids grown too much for you? Maybe it’s time to pray about public school.

Do you desire an outlet for other purposes God has placed on your heart but can’t find free time? Pray about the option of putting your younger ones in pre-school a couple hours a day or week.

Or maybe you’re a wife who’s struggling with a husband whose job demands way too much of his time and you’re resenting the position of priority it’s taken. Be honest with your husband about your concerns. Maybe it’s time to seek God as a couple about a possible employment change or a way to reduce his current hours. God’s capable of anything!

Remember, although you may be blessed with the awesome gift of children, they are never to take the #1 or #2 priority position in our lives as women and wives. If you’re investing all your time and energy into the kids and have nothing left over for God and your husband, it’s time for a change.

Lesson #3: The Love/Like Factor

I know wives and husbands who are looking at their respective spouses and thinking, “I just don’t love him/her like I used to.” Or, “My heart’s just not it in anymore.” Or, “I don’t know if I ever really loved him/her.”

This I know: Love is a fickle thing because we think it’s what we’re feeling and not what we’re doing. Love is not about what my heart feels on any given day; it’s the action that tied the bow on my wedding day vows.

On bad days, you may find yourself thinking, “I don’t even know if I like you, let alone love you.” I know because I have. (Yep, that’s real, right there.) But in this journey, God graciously showed me that Love is not about feelings and Like, well, it’s purely circumstantial. Love is about commitment; and today’s feelings, or tomorrow’s circumstances, do not release me from the covenant I made to my God and my husband the day I said, “I Do.”

Lesson #4: Seasons Change

I fully understand that life is made up of seasons - the better and worse, the richer and poorer, the sickness and health - and that with all seasons, this one too shall pass. But God also taught me that it’s not about just waiting out a season and hoping it will pass one day; it’s about what I do in that season that will determine when I move into the next one. I cannot NOT like where my marriage is now and do nothing but go to sleep and wake up every day and expect that things will change.

So, now what?

Purposefully re-engage in the re-building of your marriage… step-by-step, bit-by-bit.

#1: Surrender your bruised heart to God and allow his grace and mercy to begin healing you, both of you. Read every scripture you can on marriage, grace, mercy and love. Daily wash yourself in the Word and begin to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be an extension cord connected directly to your spouse’s heart.

#2: Get back on the prayer wagon! Prayer has an amazing way of keeping our hearts humble before our God and our spouse. Don’t just pray individually but commit to praying together. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be real. Let prayer be the most prominent display of your heart, and don’t forget to use it to lift each other up. (It’s not just a tool to re-work your spouse. J)

#3: Get some Christian counseling for necessary perspective. If you can’t afford it, Jimmy and Karen Evans of Marriage Today offer a free online resource called The Quest. We’re walking through this 10-week program now and we’re committed to coming out stronger and healthier on the other side.

#4: Have godly influences that you can share with openly and honestly. Not just any friend, but a godly, Christian person who will protect your heart while encouraging you in God’s word and God’s ways. (You can’t miss the emphasis of God and Godly!)

#5: Purpose to re-invest in your marriage by enjoying each other’s company. Take time to have fun because it’s such a necessary factor in relationships. Find things to do that will make you laugh because it really is chicken soup for the soul. Bring light-heartedness back to your marriage!

#6: Never rest on your laurels. Great marriages don’t stay great simply because they’re in a great season. The marriages you admire are admirable because the husband and wife are daily engaged in what makes them tick and what makes them stronger. Have you ever watched a marriage fall apart after 10 or more years and wondered why? Marriage requires work during the rough patches and in the best of times.

#7: Keep HOPE alive! It’s easy to believe during the low times that THIS – where you are right now – is as good as your marriage will ever get, but it’s a lie straight from the pit of hell. Our enemy will do his best to steal your hope, making it seem impossible to move forward or change. Don’t let him!

“Hope is patience with the lamp lit”. (Tertullian)

If you’re in a place where you’re questioning what’s left of your marriage; if it’s worth the effort anymore; if anything can really change; or if maybe there’s just something better out there for you… STOP, take some deep, cleansing breaths and do just the first thing listed in “So, now what?”: Surrender your bruised (or broken) heart to Jesus. There are no time limits on healing. There are no boundaries on how much hurt can be healed. There are no set rules you have to follow. Just let grace and mercy have their tender way with you and allow the untainted love of Jesus to heal your heart, piece by broken piece; and then ask the Holy Spirit to guide your next step. And remember that God always give us the choice of life or death.

I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself… Deuteronomy 30:19 (The Message)

I’m choosing life and holding on for the ride. I’m praying that you will do the same!

If you want more information on outstanding marital resources, go to Marriage Today at www.marriagetoday.org. You can also visit The Quest at www.quest.marriagetoday.com.

Our Pastor, Robert Morris, and his wife, Debbie, wrote a great book on marriage, The Blessed Marriage. It’s an easy but rich read. You can purchase that book through Gateway’s online store at http://gatewaypeople.com/store.