Tag Archives: Identity

30 Days of Gratitude Day 20-Am I Enough for You?

“Heather, am I really enough for you?”

This was the question whispered into my heart by the Holy Spirit one recent early morning.

I have to admit, it startled me. Not the question. My answer.

You see, a few months ago I stepped down from a ministry leader position in my church after several years serving on a weekly basis. The ministry I led was fruitful, fit with my spiritual gifts and filled me with passion and purpose. But God revealed to me that it was time for a new season. As I began to pray and obey into this possibility, I began to see what God had in mind. My family needs more of me, as does my growing career. And then there’s the vision; the vision God has stirred in me since I was a little girl. The vision that will realize one of my most cherished prayers; my husband and I in ministry together. It’s time to get serious about building it. More on that later…

But as I sat with Jesus just a few mornings ago and struggled to answer His very direct question, I realized there’s more to the story. It isn’t just about family, career and ministry. It’s about me. Me and God. Nothing is more important to God than each of us in intimate relationship with Him. God wants more of me

I tearfully confessed to a couple of friends at church what the Holy Spirit had asked me and the struggle I had in answering the question. In that simple question, Jesus revealed to me that ministry had become my enough. My identity was getting mixed up in what I DO for Jesus, instead of who I am in Jesus. The fruit of ministry was becoming my personal yardstick, instead of who God says I am. I was beginning to believe God loves me for what I do for Him.

I actually said out loud to my friends, “If I’m not working for God, then what good am I? What value do I hold?”

I know better than that. Yet…

This was quite startling because I preach and teach on identity in Christ. My passion and conviction has always been about intimacy with God. Before I was a believer, I was very performance driven. As I pursued a relationship with Jesus, He really worked on me in those areas. I experienced a lot of victory. This revelation was like living in a house where you know every room only to discover a basement. My friends pointed out that Jesus is calling me to a place I haven’t yet been. A place of deeper healing and calling. A place of deeper intimacy and identity. 

It’s amazing how sly the enemy is. These performance traps aren’t obvious. They are subtly set and disguised as good things. Many times the enemy will use good things to distract us from the best thing; intimacy with our heavenly Father. If we’re not careful, what starts out as loving and serving God can become working FOR God. He doesn’t need us to work for Him. He invites us to work WITH Him. 

I’ve come to believe I’m in a time of rest and preparation. The preparation is in the rest. The preparation is in the letting go and going deeper, getting uncomfortable where all I have to hold onto is my Savior who leads me. He’s inviting me into a deeper place of more abundant fruit. But first I must let go of the things that bring me validation and approval. The things of man.

He must be my ENOUGH.

If He’s calling you out of something and it doesn’t make sense, trust Him. Let your heart surrender. Get uncomfortable, and trust Him.

I’m so grateful for the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that teaches us.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-5

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Fourteen

emerson1I’m grateful that Jesus is my Teacher.

He never stops teaching. Right now He is teaching me about humility through a profound little book called, “Humility” by Andrew Murray. This book, steeped in biblical truth and and soul-ripping Scripture, has challenged, convicted and encouraged me and I’m not even half way through it.

Last year during our local IF Gathering, we were asked to write on a small stone a word the Lord had given us for the season we were in.

I wrote the word Obedience. 

That word has been seared into my heart as I have triumphed and failed and floundered and celebrated and failed again. 

Jesus is teaching me the heart of obedience is humility.

I think sometimes we get it backwards and think that obedience leads to humility. And maybe it does. But I think the Lord is showing me something deeper. Humility leads to obedience.

Not humility that is done, but humility that IS. Not doing humility, but BEING humble. And that state of being can only come from a life deeply rooted and established in Christ. A life that is emptied so that it may be filled with Christ. Pride and humility can not coexist. One is from the pit of Hell, and the other from the Heavenly of Heavenlies. I can not seek to build my reputation and further my agenda while emptying myself at the same time.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

It’s so upside down to our natural way of thinking.

But our natural way of thinking is corrupted and flawed since the day Satan tempted Eve with the fruit of pride. We can not rest in our natural way of thinking, or it will lead us astray.

I must be nothing so that God can be all. I must lower myself, still lower, so that Christ can fill me with His power and grace.

“Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest places, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.”

I have sought the character of Christ from the moment I accepted Him as my personal Savior. My heart’s desire has been to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. But there is so much more. I have only begun to scratch the surface.

I’m so grateful for the grace of God that not only saves me, but empowers me to live out His life in my own life. We as believers must put our eyes on Jesus and study his life of humility. We must earnestly pray and seek the humility that not only saved the world, but transformed it. We must pray and seek with a singlemindedness and fervency to overcome the schemes of pride from the enemy.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. 

How can we live that out in our everyday lives?  In our leadership, our homes and our communities?

We need you, Teacher.

Lord, help us follow you. Help us live lives of lowliness even in the midst of leading our families, our jobs, our platforms and our ministries. Help me to get low, lower still, to live the life of this High Calling. 

What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Thirteen

emerson1

Our Pastor has inspired me to use this season to improve my attitude of gratitude. I have committed to writing about thirty things I’m grateful for. Even the hard stuff. Gratitude is not about our circumstances. It is a choice. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my body.

Now that may sound really brazen. I’m on the thin side, so some may think that is easy for me to say. Some may even think it sounds boastful. But I assure you it’s not. You see, I struggled for almost twenty years with an eating disorder called Bulimia.

Webster Dictionary defines Bulimia as

“an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.”

Let’s look at the word distortion. The definition is

“a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.” 

I’ve always been relatively thin. It runs in my family. But because of childhood trauma my identity was defined by the emotional needs of others. That’s cause for a lot of dysfunction. In my case, I believed that if I was perfect enough, I could control the behavior of others. I believed that if people valued me as perfect, then I would finally experience the love I so desperately sought. 

I could never be thin enough.

At nineteen, I entered a fitness model contest. I was in amazing shape. I worked hard, denied my cravings and built the body I had dreamed of. But when I looked in the mirror I saw the same body I had always seen. One that was imperfect and disappointing. One that didn’t measure up. 

A year later I moved to New Jersey to pursue a modeling career in New York. I lost another ten pounds and got down to 111 pounds at 5’8″. I was so emaciated that my face just sunk in. When I returned home, my own family didn’t recognize me when they picked me up from the airport. Everybody commented that I looked like I had been sick. I deflected their comments, but inside I was pleased. I thought I had finally arrived. But when I looked in the mirror, I still didn’t measure up. 

That’s distortion.  That’s the lie we buy into. That we have to be perfect. That we are damaged goods. And as a therapist once told me, we spend the rest of our lives trying to disprove the lie that we are bad. 

I found something even more interesting about the meaning of the word distortion on the Wikipedia site.

“a distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of something, such as an object, image, sound or waveform.”

That is profoundly true! What is our original shape?

The image of God!

We are made in the image of God! That is our original shape! But because of sin and brokenness and hurt and darkness, our original shape is altered and distorted. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, man’s natural instinct has been to pursue his identity apart from God. That’s why we are broken! But there is GOOD NEWS! There is redemption in Jesus Christ!

As believers, we must understand our identity in Christ!

As people recovering recovery from eating disorders, I think we must pursue 3 key disciplines. 

  1.  Forgiveness of self and others. People with eating disorders keep standards that no one can meet.  It’s a way to stay in a perpetual state of disappointment that allows one to punish themselves and others. A person with an eating disorder will be served well by focusing on forgiveness, which leads to acceptance
  2. Communication. I was unable to communicate my feelings as a child because of fear and shame. For me Bulimia started as an experiment, and quickly led to an obsession. It became a way to not only purge my food, but symbolically to purge my painful feelings. Please talk with someone you trust. Reach out.
  3. Renewing our mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When we focus on the Truth instead of our feelings, we are renewed. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of the world, we are renewed. We must learn who we really are. Who God made us to be. Who God says we are. Most importantly, we must learn who God himself is. That is a process. 

Eating disorders are mental disorders and they are complicated. If you have one, I pray you will get professional help. I’m not a trained professional, and only share my personal experience and beliefs. I have 7 years of recovery from my disorder without one single relapse. All Glory to God! I have been delivered and set free and I believe that is possible for every one of us. 

I’m praying that you will have the strength to look into the eyes of Jesus and see the absolute love and adoration He has for you. You are enough. He has a plan for your life. It is a good plan, because He is a good God.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Nine

emerson1

I just watched a video on Youtube of a mom freaking out before a Christmas party because company is coming and she is trying to get the house in order. I mean she is freaking out. But the skit is funny so I almost peed my pants. It’s funny because she is so over the top perfectionist. I think we can all relate to company coming and the last minute “throw everything in the closet” approach.

I’m sorry if you don’t relate to that,  but I am crying and laughing at the same time. Seriously. That is so me. That so USED to be me.

It’s hilarious, but it’s also sad.

Now let me tell you what I’m grateful for.

I’m grateful that I’m learning my identity as a wife, mom and woman is not based on what I do or how well I do it. 

That’s quite a statement from someone who once firmly believed that perfection = love and approval. 

Can you relate?

Have you almost ruined holidays for yourself and your family with your obsession to make everything look perfect?

Have you missed moment of real, good life with your family because you were so focused on making things look perfect?

Did you miss the life you were trying to make it look like you had by working so hard to create a life of perfection?

Do you notice the common thread there?

Perfection.

What a lie.

There really is no such thing. And the more we try to attain it, the more we alienate the people we are trying to win over. It’s ironic because we think perfection will cure the loneliness inside, but all the while it creates it. The path to perfection leads to isolation and depression, as the perfectionist’s standards are ever increasing. The perfectionist lives in a perpetual sense of disappointment in themselves and others. No one or no thing can measure up. Discouragement and failure become their constant companion.

Acceptance is beautiful. That’s what I have discovered. When I came to understand that Jesus accepts me just as I am, and not only that, but adores me just as I am, I began to love myself.

His love changed me.

Really hear me. I had been working on loving myself for a long time. I read so many self-help books, I could have written my own. I went to therapists and watched DVDs on the power of self-love, but nothing ever really changed on the inside where it counts. I looked the part of someone who had it all together and knew all the motivational answers, but inside was a very different story. 

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Jesus changed everything. Jesus began changing me from the inside out. The parts of me deep inside that were dark with shame and guilt were the parts that drove me to perfection in the first place. That’s where He started. Instead of cleaning the outside of the cup, He began from within, where it counts. 

I’m still working on not being perfect. I’m a work in progress. The desire to love and be loved is now showing up in real authentic relationships with messy, imperfect people just like me. The emptiness I once felt is now filled to overflowing with the love of Jesus. There’s no room for lonely. 

Today I’m grateful for real life.

I’m grateful for the love of Jesus that saved me.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Three

emerson1This is Day Three of my Thirty Days of Gratitude. Are you doing it, too? Are you working on your attitude of gratitude?

It’s not too late to get started. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my story. And I wouldn’t change any part of it if it meant I wasn’t here right now where I am in my relationship with Jesus.

That’s a stunning statement. 

The halls of my past echo with pain, loss, laughter, adventure, death and destruction.  Broken dreams and battered hopes litter the floor like garbage strewn across an open highway. And woven through it all is love and tenderness and friendships.

The elements of my story probably sound a lot like yours. After all, this is the stuff of the human condition. We break and then we break each other. We do better when we know better, but until that time we bump along, bruised and bandaged. 

Perfect performance may be the banner you waved, too, to cover all that up. I carried mine pretty high and pretty proud. I was so good at pointing to that banner that no one knew it wasn’t a part of me. Performing for love as I like to call it. 

Can you relate?

When I became a believer I had to unlearn a lot of stuff. I had to unwind all the tapes in my head that said I had to be perfect to be loved. That all the bad things were my fault. That I’m responsible. That I’m damaged goods.

I had to even unlearn some mental disorderliness. 

I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to do that on my own. My power, which is so weak, wasn’t needed for this project. The same power that rose the broken body of Jesus from that wooden cross is the same power God used to rewrite my story. And as He rewrote my story, He gave me the courage to talk about all the broken bits. And the broken bits gave others courage too. My story grew out of the ashes of regret into one of hope and victory. And as I shared that hope and victory, others rose in hope and victory too. Together we became brave as we ripped off our masks to reveal the radiance of Christ shining through our broken bits.

No more mask wearing! We don’t have to wear them anymore…

Honest. Open. Authentic. Transforming. That’s who we are. Oh, and adored by God just as we are.

They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11

Yes, our story can do that. Our story can save lives. But it’s not really our story, is it? It’s God’s story written in and through us that does the saving. The power of God is displayed through the stories of His people. 

Shouldn’t we be telling more stories? 

Even if your story is still in the making. Even if it isn’t tied up with a pretty little bow yet, please tell it. Encourage someone today. The struggle is real, but we are all in it together. The more we hear that we are not alone, the less alone we feel. That is what community is all about. People walking it out together.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

What are you grateful for today?

“I’M RESPONSIBLE!”

yiq5yk7inI sat in the room on the couch, waiting for her to return with my cup of water. During our last session, she had asked me to journal three things I would like to work on. I obediently prayed and wrote out my thoughts in my journal. During that time with the Lord, he revealed to me some areas of deep bondage. He showed me strongholds that have insidiously wrapped themselves around the very core of my belief systems. Strongholds that had robbed me of joy. Strongholds that robbed me of the joy of parenting. Strongholds that resulted in worry and fear about my children.

Growing up, I was the oldest child in a very dysfunctional family. My father was an alcoholic and my mother did the best she could. To reduce my father to one word really isn’t fair. He was so much more, but sadly that word diminished him.  A better definition might be a lost man on the run from God. Be that as it may, chaos played out in our home. At a young age, I was expected to take care of my baby sister who was four and a half years younger. I have very vivid memories of babysitting my toddling baby sister when I was only six years old. I remember one day standing at the bottom of our road, tears streaming down my face, as I watched my parents drive away. Utter fear and panic clutched at my throat as my father’s warning rang in my ears, “You better not let anything happen to her.” Hours passed and there we were alone.  I better get it right, or it’s my fault.

I have many memories like this. Some include her actually getting hurt and me being blamed, and one includes her actually dying and me blaming myself. Something doesn’t have to be true to be believed.

She started our session in prayer, and to my astonishment, prayed the words of revelation I had written in my journal. She prayed that I would stop carrying the burden of responsibility that I had assumed as a child. That I would stop playing God, and starting trusting the One that IS God. That I would stop trying to make up for what happened to my sister.

She asked me to take a walk through the hallways of my heart. Craving freedom, I agreed to trust her and imagined the inside of my heart. There were many rooms. She told me she wanted me to notice the big room off to the side, and walk into it. Immediately my heart started racing. I didn’t want to go into that room. I knew there was something scary in there. I knew I would be facing my giants. After several prayerful moments, I got the courage to walk in. She told me to notice the wallpaper. All over, in every font and size, was the phrase “I’M RESPONSIBLE!” Those words filled the entire room in dizzying repitition.

I heard her say, “Now I want you to tear down that wallpaper.”

No! I can’t! Who would I be if I weren’t responsible? Wait, what?  Who would I be?

I had built my life on lies! The lies of the enemy.  He had convinced me that I was responsible for the outcome, that if i didn’t get it right, disaster would strike.  I had been fooled!  The lies had cost me. I had paid the price.  Others had paid the price.

She prayed me through and I began to rip down that wallpaper.  I ripped and ripped and prayed and prayed.  We prayed God’s truth in place of those lies.  Strength and power rose up as the lies were smashed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It was powerful, and it was just the beginning of my desperate journey to really trust God.  To trust Him with everything.  I will not offer my children on the altar of the sin of my soul- the sin of not fully trusting God.

What does your wallpaper say?

I encourage you to let Jesus carry your burdens.  He will give you rest for your soul.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I’m coming, Jesus.