Lesson Five: A Time to Heal

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~ Hope for the Wounded ~

God longs to bring healing and restoration in every area of our lives.  We can entrust ourselves to God as our Healer. – Margaret Feinberg

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After a couple of months away from this study I am now revisiting this lesson and looking at it with fresh eyes.  I know, now more than ever, that I must protect my emotional health and guard my heart.  Wounds on the inside – emotional wounds – the unseen ones – are often the hardest to overcome and heal.  So, so true.

I’ve been through several of the scenarios listed as examples in this lesson.  I’ve had to make tough choices that left me feeling like part of me died.  People have said and done things that cut me to the core.  I’ve experienced loss and pain that left me torn apart.  Life has thrown painful punches.

And so have people.

People I trusted.

I honestly would rather have a stranger punch me in the face than have someone I care about betray or abandon me.  I would definitely heal more quickly from than than emotional wounds.  I am deeply loyal and committed to those I love and care about, and when I am wronged by them it feels like part of me dies.  I have come to realize over the last 8 weeks that I feel that way because I have never learned how to set healthy boundaries in my relationships.  I take on too much responsibility for the choices and actions of others.

For the past two months I have participated in a weekly group studying Boundariesa book that has been hugely eye-opening and that I highly recommend.  This class and study has ushered in a while new level of healing for me.

Jesus healed not only people’s physical bodies, He brought healing to their hearts and minds.  That’s important to remember because God doesn’t limit healing to our physical bodies, but He also wants to heal our hearts and emotions. – Margaret Feinberg

Psalm 147:3 says:

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He is Jehovah Rapha – “YAHWEH Who Heals.”

God has healed my emotions many times over the course of my life.  I am now learning that a lot of the pain I have experienced was brought about by poor choices on my part, combined with a lack of boundaries.  God is now teaching me how to guard my heart in a healthy way so that I can let the good things He has for me in and keep the negative and toxic things (and people) out.  It is hard, slow work, but it must be done if I want healthy, whole relationships in the future.

In order to experience His full healing, I need to listen carefully to His voice, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His commands, and keep all His decrees (Exodus 15:22-26).  In order to do that, I need to stay in His Word and pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  A deeper relationship with Him is the key to my freedom.

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Too long have I allowed myself to be held captive by unhealthy, emotionally destructive thought patterns.  Too long have I settled for relationships and “friendships” that weren’t God’s best for me or in my best interest due to fear of loneliness, fear that I was unlovable, and fear that I would never find something better.  Christ died to give me abundant life.  It is high time I claimed that gift and began living it.

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The key to experiencing God’s restoration and healing is to spend quality time alone with Him.  In Mark 6:31, Jesus tells the disciples

Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.

As a woman – especially a single mom with a full-time job – it is difficult to find time to be alone with God without distraction.  I had to get over feeling guilty for taking care of my spiritual, mental, and emotional health.  What good is a spotless house if you are a mess on the inside?  Those feelings and thoughts of guilt are not from God.  God tells me that the most important thing I can do is deepen my relationship with Him.  And I have found this to be true.  Strengthening my relationship with God strengthens me, and in turn that strengthens my relationships with others.

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Setting aside time to rest and be restored by God is key to healing.  I have to take the time to work through and deal with my grief, disappointment, and pain.  I can’t ignore it or pretend it isn’t there.  Ignoring problems won’t make them go away.  But I can’t just sit around moping and feeling sorry for myself.  On the flip side, being busy as a way of just numbing the pain isn’t helpful and doesn’t work.  I must be busy working through the pain and getting closer to God.

God is nudging me to embrace my current life stage and take the opportunity to rest in Him and deepen that relationship when what I want to do is hurry up and get through this time of singleness and find a life partner.  But God is telling me to slow down, find out who I really am, and trust His timing for the rest.

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Previous Posts on this Study:

When Change is Hard — Proverbs 31 Ministries Devotions

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I seem to be surrounded by reminders of life’s changing seasons right now, especially when I start to get down or frustrated.  God won’t let me get away from Ecclesiastes 3.  My last post on my A Time for Everything study was Lesson Four:  A Time to Transition.

 I’ve completed Lesson Five ( A Time to Heal) in my book, but have not had time to do a blog post on that yet.  That was on the agenda for this weekend.  In the meantime, over the past few weeks I have been bombarded with devotionals and images and messages reminding me of the importance of change and God’s purpose for us in it.

And then this was in my inbox this morning.

When Change is Hard — Proverbs 31 Ministries Devotions.

Perhaps you are facing a season of change and would be encouraged by some “reframing” and a fresh perspective. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has made everything beautiful “for its own time.” God has designed our lives into beautiful seasons, but there is a time limit on each one.

Some seasons are wide-open doors for our passions and calling … and some seasons are closed doors when God asks us to grow spiritually, professionally, relationally, or maybe emotionally.

 

A question that helped me in the season of waiting for my dream of working with women was, what does this time make possible? For every season, God has a purpose for us. During mine, closed doors made continuing education possible.

What about you? Do you feel like you are in a closed-door season? Ask God what this new time makes possible for you. Join a Bible study . . . . Pursue a dream. Take a class to help you develop professionally. These are all new frames you can put around this season of change.

I definitely feel like I am in a “closed-door” season right now.  I need to focus on improving myself and growing in all the ways she mentioned above – spiritually, professionally, relationally, and emotionally.

I don’t need to view my season by what I lack, but by what it makes possible for me.  

So I am re-energized about finishing up my real estate licensure course so that I can grow and expand at my current job, and possibly open avenues to a new career in the future.

I am also excited about other possibilities that have been dreamed about but that I have never had an opportunity to explore before.  I am excited about finding out where my passions truly lie, and then working toward making that my life’s work.

It’s time to start experimenting.

via When Change is Hard — Proverbs 31 Ministries Devotions.

Lesson Four: A Time to Transition

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~ The Importance of change ~

Whenever you face a time of transition, God is with you. – Margaret Feinberg

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This lesson started out with a quiz to determine how I respond to change.  To be honest, the results surprised me quite a bit.  I expected to find that I hate change and avoid it at all costs.  My choices, however, indicated that I either liked change or would thrive in it.  I’ve always craved stability and been sort of a home-body, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had the opportunity to be anything else before.  Others made that choice for me.

Whether you’re a fan of change or one who tries to resist it at all costs, everyone inevitably faces seasons of transition in life.  How will you respond? – Margaret Feinberg

When my marriage ended, I had choices to make.  Things were going to change whether I wanted them to or not.  I could choose to become bitter and depressed and let my circumstances define me.  I could choose to not do anything but sit and fret and wallow in self-pity.  Or I could choose to move forward and embrace the chance to do all the things I had dreamed of, but set aside for my marriage and family.  Yes, that would involve even more change, but it would be positive change to improve my life and my attitude.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a season of planting – a time when we stay in one place, root deeper in our relationships and community, and embrace the stability that naturally comes.  But other times we find ourselves in a season of uprooting – a time when change is taking place all around, even within us. – Margaret Feinberg

Right now I am experiencing a little of both.  It is hard to describe.  This past year has brought tremendous changes in relationships, in my home, and in myself.  But at the same time, there has been stability in my faith, church, and job.  Those roots and that stability have been instrumental in my being able to adjust to and cope with the other changes I have faced.  I am rooting myself in that stability even as I begin to plan even more changes for myself in the next few years.  It will also continue to help me cope with any other unexpected changes, necessary endings, or new beginnings that arise.  And I know there will be some.

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Over this past year I have definitely sensed God’s blessing and provision as I am putting down new roots in this new stage of life.  I know that He is with me during this time of transition because He has always provided for my son and I, and I know He will continue to take care of us.

~ Cue God to act ~

For example, I was drafting this blog post in a notebook while sitting in the waiting area of my local Firestone and had just finished writing the above sentence when this happened.  Talk about impeccable timing.

My God will provide.

I don’t have to worry.

The lesson goes on to talk about the Israelites and their exodus from Egypt.

In order to flourish again, they needed to uproot themselves from everything that was familiar.  Throughout the long and difficult journey God reminded the people that He was with them time and time again. – Margaret Feinberg

Every time I start to worry about bills or finances, God shows up to let me know He is there.

He is trustworthy.

He is faithful.

Over the last year I realized that I had planted myself in my ex-husband and his family.  I was looking to him and them for my security and worth instead of looking to God.  If He allowed me to be uprooted from that, then it is because He has bigger plans for me that I could not or would not accomplish where I was comfortable.  Yes, the transition was painful and heart-wrenching.  But I learned that God will always be with me and that He has a purpose for what I have experienced.  He does not want my suffering to be in vain.  And it won’t be if I allow Him to use it.

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Now I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I have a good, steady job that pays my bills, but it isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life.  My son graduates from high school in two years, so I am content to stay where I am for the time-being.  But I am excited about the opportunity to figure out what my dream for my life actually is, and pursue it.  I am blessed to still be young enough to make a total career change without having to worry about supporting my family.

I have been holding on to the truths that God is both with me and that He goes before me.  I need to remind myself of those facts often.  He is with me through everything I have faced or will face.  But He also goes before me, so nothing gets to me that hasn’t gone through Him first.  He is writing my story, and He knows how it is going to end.

I still face several potential transitions in the areas of relationships, work, and finances.  Regarding relationships, I am working on building intentional new friendships.  After my brief dip in the dating pool this summer, I have put dating on hold until I really figure out who I am and who I want to be.  My time dating this summer made me realize that I need to know myself better before I can have the kind of relationship I really want.

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But that is something that I will eventually have to transition into as well.  And it’s something I’ve never really done before, so that is going to be it’s own learning experience and adventure.  Work-wise, I mentioned a possible career change in a few years.  That also ties into financial transitions and figuring out what to do about not only paying for college for my child, but also finances in general when child support ends after he graduates high school.  I will have no choice but to make changes in my career at that point.

No matter what, I have to put my complete trust in God during any transitions in all areas of my life.  He is in the midst of each one of them.  He goes before me and with me every step of the way.

Previous Posts on this Study:

Yahweh-Yireh {YHWH Will Provide}

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Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” – Genesis 22:14 (New Living Translation)

So, last Friday morning I was sitting in my local Firestone waiting for my car to be fixed and drafting my next blog post in the “A Time for Everything” study that I am working through.   This post was originally going to be a part of that next post (which will probably be up by Saturday), but it ended up taking on a life of it’s own and going a little off topic.  I had just finished writing about God’s blessing and provision during my last year of transition, and knowing that God would continue to take care of my son and I when He showed up to provide – once again right on time – in a HUGE way.

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But first, backstory . . .

My trusty old Impala had had a loud roaring noise coming from the front wheels when driving for about a week.  Since my son had his road test for his driver’s license scheduled for the following Wednesday (TODAY!) and will be driving the car to and from school, it needed to be checked out.  I was hoping that it was simply tire noise because they needed to be rotated, but I had needed to have wheel bearings replaced on one side of the front before, and knew that or needing new tires was also a possibility.  So I started calling around early last week to get some quotes, and took Friday off to go get it looked at.  In the meantime, I had been praying hard for there to be either nothing major wrong, or for God to provide a way to fix the car without totally wiping out my savings account.

I should note that I had just last month spent around $350 to fix a coolant leak.   But God was still providing, as the car overheated close to a local service center with me driving, and not my kid.  It’s a very sturdy car with an engine that runs great, but at almost 180,000 miles stuff is going to wear out.  I’d rather have stuff break before I turn it over to him than after.

I should also note that it’s hard to find a trustworthy mechanic.  I had a great one that charged very reasonable prices, but they went out of business several months ago.  In June, I went back a local mechanic I had previously used before to get routine maintenance done (radiator flush and new fluid).  In the process of fixing the coolant leak I mentioned above the service center informed me that they flushed my radiator, too, since it was grimy.  So that was disappointing, to say the least, after I had paid someone I thought I could trust to do it two months ago.

So anyway, my plan was to have my tires rotated at my local Discount Tire first, since I get free rotation because I bought my tires there.  Then if that didn’t solve the noise issue, I’d have an appointment to look at the car scheduled just in case.  The first place I called was the service center that fixed my coolant leak.  I trusted them to do good work, but I knew they were pricey.  In fact, it probably would have cost me about $100 less to have the coolant leak fixed anywhere else, but I would have paid close to that to get my car towed somewhere else, plus lost time at work trying to figure out where to take it and when.  I was just glad to have gotten to a service center, since there wasn’t another one around for several miles.  Anyway, I digress . . . back to pricing for replacing wheel bearings.  So, they wanted $450 PER SIDE to fix the wheel bearings, if that was what was wrong.

PER.

SIDE.

Ouch.

Then I called my local Firestone, which was closer to my house and who I had also used before for tire repair and oil changes.  They quoted me $338 for one side and around $600 for both sides, and offered to rotate my tires for free first and have one of their techs drive it afterwards so I didn’t have to go to two places.  They also had a special on a complete vehicle inspection for $9.99.  Needless to say, I made the appointment with Firestone.

So that is how I came to be at Firestone on a Friday morning doing my morning devotions and writing out a blog post.  The tech drove my car and listened to the noise.  The manager called me over and said the tech was pretty sure it was at least one of my wheel bearings, but he was going to have them rotate my tires and drive my car again anyway just to be sure.  They did, and the manager called me back up to tell me that the noise was still there.  He was pretty sure it was coming from the right wheel, because the left one looked like it had been replaced before (it had).  So I told them to go ahead and fix it.

Sigh.

I was right in the middle of writing my post when the manager called me over a third time.  I was not excited to be talking to him again, especially after seeing the look on his face as I was walking over.  He said they replaced the right one, drove it again, and still heard noise coming from the left side.

Which meant the left one was going bad as well.

Great.

Then the manager asked me if I knew who had fixed the left one before.  I said yes.  He said that if he knew where the left one had come from, he could probably return it for a rebate/refund.  So, if it was ok with me, he’d just go ahead and replace the left side, too, but wouldn’t charge me for the part – just the extra labor – which basically amounted to around $50.

The part itself cost almost $250.

THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

EVER.

I got there at 8:30 a.m. and walked out a little over 2 hours later with a full vehicle inspection, rotated tires, and new wheel bearings and hubs on both front wheels for less than $450, tax included.

THAT IS LESS THAN THE QUOTE I GOT FOR FIXING ONE SIDE FROM THE OTHER PLACE I CALLED.

I don’t have to worry.

YHWH will provide.

Yahweh-yireh.

Jehovah-jireh.

And Firestone has a loyal customer for life.

 
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Lesson Three: A Time for Necessary Endings

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~ Leaving Behind the Familiar ~

Sometimes we hold on to things that aren’t God’s best for us and we face a necessary ending.  But when we let go, we can begin to lay hold of the NEW beginning God has for us. – Margaret Feinberg

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This chapter.

Oh. My. Word.

THIS CHAPTER.

I am not sure I could have made it through it last summer.  The fact that I made it through it now (though it took several weeks of stopping and starting and processing and revisiting) without breaking down is a testament to the healing God has done in my heart over the past year.

The questions in this chapter helped me to really stop and process a lot of the things I experienced in the past year.  Not that I haven’t done processing along the way, but this really helped to tie everything together and bring the purpose into focus.  Because there is always purpose in everything we experience.

We all have moments in our lives when we sense God calling us to leave something behind in order to lay hold of the something NEW God has for us. – Margaret Feinberg

Over the past year I have experienced several significant changes and necessary endings, most notably in the area of relationships.  Some of the endings I saw coming, and others blindsided me.  None were things I wanted.  All, however, were necessary despite the pain that came with each of them.

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Through each ending I have found that God had a NEW beginning waiting for me.  And He always will.  He knew these endings were coming even if I didn’t.  And the fact that I survived them – and, in fact, am thriving – means that He isn’t done with me yet.

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Endings – even necessary ones we can see coming – are always affect us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Our faith may not take a beating, but it can be stretched, and that can also be painful.  Physically, each of my endings have caused stress, exhaustion from not eating and sleeping, and anxiety.  Emotionally I have been all over the place.  I’ve felt happy, free, joyful, and content one five minutes, and rejected, worthless, unloved, and unlovable the next.  That tends to happen when you experience a bad ending that blindsides you when you least expect it.  When people decide that they don’t really care about you after all, as I experienced last year.  When they choose to walk away and forget all the vows and promises they made.  I came to the startling realization that the relationships with which I had surrounded myself had become toxic, and it was in my best interest to let some people have (and go) their own way, and actively disconnect myself from others.

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It can also happen with a necessary ending you can see coming, but don’t really want to face, as I experienced more recently.  When, though it isn’t a toxic relationship and doesn’t end badlyit still ends.  When they say that – even though  they really like you, relate to you, and respect you – things just didn’t “click” for them and they want to go back to just being friends.

It still stings, whether you are dropped like a rock, or let down as gently and carefully as possible.  Whether you are completely blindsided or see it coming.  Even when you know it is for your best because it isn’t God’s best for you.

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Sometimes we must let go and move on from that which is familiar in order to embrace all God has for us.  One of the ways the disciples did this was by leaving behind all they knew to follow Christ. – Margaret Feinberg

In Luke 5:27-28, Jesus called Levi (Matthew) to follow Him.  He responded by leaving everything – EVERYTHING – behind, getting up, and following Him.  Last year I had to choose between running after my ex-husband yet again, or following God.

I chose God.

And to do that meant that I had to release my marriage and my husband.  With him went his family, a lifelong friend, and the past 18 years of my life.  What makes the decision worthwhile is knowing that God will never leave me or forsake me and that He has a purpose for everything I have experienced.

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One of the great paradoxes or upside down principles of following Jesus is that when we choose to die to ourselves through the grace of the Holy Spirit, then we become more alive to Christ. – Margaret Feinberg

In Matthew 6:24-25, Jesus says:

No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot be slaves of God and of money.  This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?

I tried for years to hold on to my marriage.  I did whatever was asked of me in order to try and keep my ex-husband “happy.”  I now realize that it was never my job or responsibility to do that.  But I allowed trying to keep him happy determine how much I served God.  I was trying to serve two masters.  And it was never enough.  Not for my ex and not for God.  God finally allowed him to have his way, and now I have freedom to be fully obedient to God.    I have so much more than I can say yes to God about.  If I don’t, it’s my own fault and no one else’s.

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In John 12:24-26, Jesus says:

I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.  The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

I’ve always been a problem-solver.  I’m a fixer.  That’s just how I’m wired.  I’ve always been willing to go out of my way to try and help someone in need.  And this past year I have truly experienced the NEW life that comes through service.  After my ex-husband left, I threw myself into serving more at my church.  That increased service has given me a renewed sense of purpose and value, and has opened doors to even more involvement and opportunities to serve.

I John 3:16 says:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Several times over the past year, people I barely knew have gone out of their way to offer help to my son and I.  It made me realize there were people out there who cared about us, and not just what I could do or had done for them.  No matter how much or how little we have, there is always something we can do to let someone else know that we see them.  That they aren’t invisible or insignificant.

One of the things I have learned is that I still have some emotional healing to do in order to have the kind of relationship I want and God wants for me in the future.  I need to take time to learn how to have a healthy relationship before I think about dating or looking for someone to spend my life with.  And the best way to spend my time while I do that is to serve God by serving others.

Previous Posts on this Study:

Deceptive Words That are Worthless – Coffee with God – August 1, 2013

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Approval addiction is essentially an act of self-abandonment. Instead of finding your value and worth from your Creator, you have essentially given your heart up for adoption. You have given it away to others for love and approval, making them responsible for your feelings. – Pete Wilson, Empty Promises

I saw this quote posted on Facebook today by Women’s Bible Cafe and it hit me right between the eyes.   I’m guilty of doing this a lot.

A. LOT.

I’m learning that learning to be content in singleness is hard work.  Especially after spending half of my life being half of something.  I find myself cycling back and forth between determining to be content where I am and just remain here and focused on God and my child for the present, and the desire to start looking for a partner to eventually journey on with.

Logically and rationally, I KNOW it is a bad idea to rush forward.  But I crave the companionship I once had.

And if I’m not careful, I can (and have) let the desire and search for companionship become an idol.

I have begun reading through the NIV One Year Chronological Bible again, and I flipped to today’s passage after reading the above quote.  And I got hit between the eyes again.

The People Indulge in False Worship – Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

(4) Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

(8) But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

(9) Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, (10) and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” – safe to do all these detestable things?”

(19) But am I the one they are provoking? declares the LORD.  Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

(23) . . . Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. (24) But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.  They went backward and not forward.

I am the temple of the LORD (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  And lately I’ve been guilty of saying that God is enough, then not five minutes later getting depressed because I don’t have a boyfriend and letting worthless, deceptive words run rampant through my thoughts.

What if I wait too long?  I might never find someone . . .

Who wants wants to date a 36-year-old divorced single mom? . . .

Will a strong Christian man even look twice at having a relationship with a divorced woman? Will the circumstances even matter? . . .

Better not set my standards TOO high . . .

I know that is part of being an emotional human being.  But my wishy-washyness is getting on my nerves.  An idol is anything we focus on more than our relationship with God.  And I’m in danger of letting another relationship, or the search for another relationship, or the lack of another relationship become an idol.  If I let my stubborn heart lead me, then I will only harm myself by going backward and not forward.  That may lead to me settling for any man that I have an emotional connection with or that shows interest, whether that is the best thing for me or not.

I don’t deserve any man.  I deserve God’s man set apart for me.

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I don’t want just an emotional connection.  I want a spiritual connection, too.  MORE, in fact.  

I’m done with backward.  With the old.  My One Word for this year is NEW, and I need to keep that in mind when my feelings start messing with my head.

The LORD said, “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose . . . – Jeremiah 15:11

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I have been delivered for a reason, and I don’t want to let my emotions get in the way of my purpose, or of the relationship God has for me.

I don’t want to trust in deceptive words that are worthless.

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Coffee with God – July 30, 2013

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It’s been a crazy couple of weeks gearing up for school to start back, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for in depth studying or reflecting.  I’ve been sitting on the next lesson in A Time for Everything: Discovering the Beautiful Rhythms of Life from Women of Faith for a couple of reasons.  The topic was A Time for Necessary Endings: Leaving Behind the Familiar.  And, boy, is it EVER a loaded topic for me.  I’ve finished it in the book, but I haven’t had time to sit and write any of my thoughts out in detail for a blog post.  Hoping to get that done this weekend.  Also, I’ve been wrestling with and working through another ending recently, and how to proceed with that change in relationship.

So anyway, this morning I was reading through the lesson again since it had been a couple of weeks (and I really needed to hear some of the truths again), and these are the thoughts that touched me the most.

We all have moments in our lives when we sense God calling us to leave something behind in order to lay hold of the something NEW God has for us.

. . . maybe we’re aware of an unhealthy pattern or addiction in our lives and we’ve got to make a break.  Whatever necessary ending you may need to make, rest assured that it’s worth it in order to lay hold of the freedom and fullness of life God has for you.

Sometimes we must let go and move on from that which is familiar in order to embrace all God has for us.  One of the ways the disciples did this was by leaving behind all they knew to follow Christ.

One of the great paradoxes or upside down principles of following Jesus is that when we choose to die to ourselves through the grace of the Holy Spirit, then we become more alive to Christ.

Greek, the original language for most of the New Testament, has more than one word for “life.” Bios is the earthly life, from which we derive the words “biology” or “biosphere,” and zoe is the NEW life offered by God.  We are called to lay down our bios to receive the zoe that God has in store.

Sometimes we hold on to things that aren’t God’s best for us and we face a necessary ending.  But when we let go, we can begin to lay hold of the NEW beginning God has for us.

Lesson Two: A Time for #NEW Beginnings

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One of the most exciting things about being a child of God is that God is always up to something NEW. – Margaret Feinberg

Sometimes God uses us and the community we’re in to do something NEW to share the love of Christ with others . . . Sometimes the NEW thing God is doing is within us. – Margaret Feinberg

Sometimes the idea of trying or starting something new invigorates me.  Other times it can be very, very frightening.  Often my response to something new depends upon the circumstances, and whether or not I see the “new” thing as something good or something bad.  I’m usually always up for trying a new type of food or restaurant, visiting a new place, or learning new things.  I love new experiences.

On the other hand, I tend to be leery when it comes to new relationships and friendships because I have been incredibly hurt by people I trusted. I have also been leery of big changes – like job moves or physical moves – because of the uncertainty that accompanies those types of choices and what negative outcomes might mean for my family.  Trying a new food and not liking it is vastly different from trying a new job and hating it.  Been there.  LIVED THAT.

This past year, though, God has used my circumstances to force me into facing A LOT of new things.  New friends.  New areas in which to serve at my church.  New opportunities at work.  The start and subsequent end, albeit amicable and healthy with the hope of eventual continued friendship, of my first new relationship.  New dreams.  New goals.  New vision.  And the list goes on and on.

I’m taking baby steps toward my new as I am learning how to embrace my second chance and pursue my goals and my dreams.  And part of that is also figuring out exactly what my goals and my dreams are.  But . . .

Sometimes stepping out in faith to be part of something new that God is doing stretches us beyond our comfort zones. – Margaret Feinberg

Exodus 3:1-10 tells the story of Moses’ encounter with Yahweh at the burning bush.  In Exodus 3:11-15 and 4:1-17, Moses goes through a litany of reasons why God picked the wrong guy.   God was having none of it, though.  Moses was not about to get out of what God had for him to do.  If I were Moses, and God were talking to me out of a burning bush, I’m not sure I would have tried to argue with Him.  In fact, I’d probably be too scared to respond at all.  That is, if I hadn’t already passed out.

Despite our protests that something won’t work or somehow we’re not qualified, if God calls us to do something new, He will provide a way. – Margaret Feinberg

For years, I put service to (and, therefore, obedience to) God on the back burner because my ex-husband wasn’t on board with being involved in anything.  Not a Sunday School class.  Not a small group.  Not an area of service.  Not even friendships with other couples.  Nothing.  Last fall, however, I was able to begin helping in a high school girls’ Sunday School class.  In fact, since last summer I have gone from attending one main church service on Sundays and one class on Wednesday nights to attending one, sometimes two, worship services (depending upon my media volunteer schedule) and teaching Sunday School on Sundays, attending home group on Sunday nights, and attending class or service on Wednesdays.

Even more important, though, is that my son now attends Sunday School and worship on Sundays (instead of one or the other), also volunteers in media, attends home group with me on the weekends he is home, and goes to youth group on Wednesdays.  And he absolutely loves it.  He is being actively mentored both by older men and young men closer to his age.  He loves interacting with them and knows there are any number of men he can talk to in our church when he needs to.  And I love that.

Not only does God do NEW things through us but He also does NEW things within us.  God is steadily renewing us – or making us NEW – as we yield to Him in our lives. – Margaret Feinberg

What Satan mean for evil God has used to bring about tremendous good in both my and my son’s spiritual lives.  God CAN make beauty from the ashes of our lives.  Never in a million years would I have ever thought that one of the biggest blessings in my life would be going through an unwanted divorce.  But that experience was the catalyst that pushed me into a deeper relationship with God, renewed my desire to do His work, opened the door for my son to have deeper relationships with godly men who want to help me disciple him, and freed me from things and people that had been holding me back from reaching my full potential.  

Now, I am not as afraid to strive for new things.  In fact, God has placed a NEW dream on my heart.  I think I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.  And I am working toward that goal now.  In a few short years my child will graduate high school (*SOB!*) and I will be ready to embark on that journey.

And I am looking forward to that new beginning with great anticipation.

Previous Posts on this Study:

Lesson One: A Time for Everything

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Every season of life provides an opportunity to learn something more about God.  Though we don’t always get to choose our season of life, we can always choose to call out to God and worship Him in the midst. – Margaret Feinberg

Acts 16:16-34 tells the story of Paul and Silas being thrown into prison for healing a slave girl.  You can read the passage here.

They responded to this inconvenient, uncomfortable, and unpleasant time by praying and singing hymns to God.  What surprises me most about their response is that they were doing this right after they had been beaten, stripped, flogged, and thrown in jail.

I think everyone’s initial gut response when faced with an inconvenient, uncomfortable, and unpleasant time is disbelief, anger, nausea, or any number of other visceral physical responses.  At least that is my initial gut reaction.  But it is the response that comes after that initial shock passes, though, that shows where our faith really lies.

When bad things happen, I have always turned to prayer.  This past year, though, I have learned what it really means to praise God in all circumstances.

The first two times my ex-husband packed his things and left, I was terrified.  I prayed, sure, but I also was scared of what would happen – especially financially – to my child and I if he didn’t come back.  So I would bend over backward to try to be what he wanted and do what he wanted to get him to come home, even going so far as to put him in front of God in my life.  I made him and my marriage my idol, because I let him determine what I did and didn’t do for God.

Last year, though, was different.  I had been through so much with God during the past 5 years that I knew – KNEW – that God would take care of us, no matter what.  I also knew that this time I wasn’t going to compromise my faith and my relationship with God to run after a man who was running away from God.  I had to choose between my marriage and my God.  This time I chose to stand still with God.  And it was the scariest, saddest, and bravest decision I’ve ever had to make.

KNOW now that God is still God no matter what happens, whether in my own personal life or on a grander scale.

KNOW that He is always faithful and true.

KNOW that He will never leave me or forsake me.

KNOW that He will always keep His promises because He cannot lie.

No matter what He allows in my life, it is ALWAYS for my good and for His ultimate glory.  He still deserves my praise in all circumstances because of who He is.

Now when I face difficult times – and, as a single mom, I will face many – I always expect God to reveal Himself in an unexpected way.  He has always come through with just what I need just when I need it.  I know He will do the same every time I face a trial.  I just have to be looking for His blessings – counting my 1000 gifts.

As I transition into this new season of my life – a season of growing into a whole single person – God is showing me that His plans are for my prosperity and not my harm.  He will give me a future and a hope.  He has done this by taking away all that was holding me back from moving forward spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and relationally.  I have been freed to work for God on mission by volunteering more time at my church, teaching a high school Sunday School class, joining a home group with my son, and intentionally discipling my child in a way I was not able to before.

I am developing new, healthy, transparent friendships with people who are also pursuing God and His will in their lives.

I spent years praying that my ex-husband would turn his life over to God and really, truly become a partner to me.  But he chose not to do either of those things.  Though I won’t blame God for my ex-husband’s actions that led to our divorce, I do believe that He allowed it to happen in response to my ex-husband’s continued disobedience and unwillingness to repent.  And the result is that I am now free to pursue God fully and completely.

And I also know that God will one day send me the partner I’ve been praying for all these years.  My job is to follow Him, and grow in patience while I wait on His timing.

Previous Posts on this Study:

A Time for Everything: A Study of Changing Life Seasons by Looking at Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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I spent the last half of 2012 immersed in scriptures, studies, and devotionals focusing on healing and restoration after heartbreak.  I’m not sure how I would have made it through that time period without Trusting God in Times of Adversity (Kay Arthur’s study on Job), Streams in the Desert, Jesus Calling, Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word Day-by-Day devotional, and DivorceCare.  But as 2013 started, I was ready for another kind of devotional study that focused on renewal and moving forward after healing.  And I honestly couldn’t find that much out there.

When I was recently at Sam’s Club (that seems to be my go-to place to pick up Bible studies), a study by Women of Faith called “A Time for Everything: Discovering the Beautiful Rhythms of Life” caught my eye.  I flipped to the table of contents, and knew I had found the study I had been craving.

It is divided into two sections called “Right on Time” and “Finding God in Every Season of Life.”

The chapters are:

  1. A Time for Everything:  Spring and Summer, Winter and Fall
  2. A Time for New Beginnings:  Called to Something Fresh
  3. A Time for Necessary Endings:  Leaving Behind the Familiar
  4. A Time to Transition:  The Importance of Change
  5. A Time to Heal:  Hope for the Wounded
  6. A Time to Reassess:  Breaking Down and Building Up
  7. A Time to Remain Faithful:  Continuing Through Hardship
  8. A Time for Fruitfulness and Replenishment:  Gathering and Scattering
  9. A Time for Resolutions:  Following Through
  10. A Time for Silence and Speaking:  The Value of Knowing the Difference
  11. A Time for Love:  Reaching Out to Others
  12. A Time to Trust:  Faith in God’s Faithfulness

To say that I am really excited about starting this is an UNDERSTATEMENT.  I am exactly smack in the middle of a huge life change right now.  My old life has ended, and my NEW one is beginning.

I want the next 18 years to be SO MUCH BETTER than the last.

And I want the ME in the next 18 years to be so much better than the me of the past, too.