>Blah Days

>So the last couple of days have been “blah” days. Do you know what I am talking about? Sunday was a wonderful day of worship. The days before this past Sunday were filled with distinct and memorable God moments of revelation. They were filled with moments of hopeful expectations for the future. My minds eyes saw endless possibilities of God’s purpose and hand in my life. Not even the sky was the limit. You know eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard what the Lord has planned for those who love Him (1 Corin 2:9). Yes it was that kind of week, that kind of Sunday… then Monday.

Why is it that after you have just had some amazing time with God it is followed with a blah day? Or maybe it’s just me…

Monday I woke up with a weight on my shoulders. Nothing tangible, no obvious reason, just a heaviness upon me. One of those mornings where I stare at the sky and the trees and gaze absent-mindedly at my unopen Bible and clean notebook page in front of me. One of those mornings when I need a pep rally to just have the desire to want to get going. One of those mornings when my focus is on the issues of life instead of the Creator of life.

When these mornings, these days, come I have learned I have to just sit and wait. So I just sat and continued to stare out into the open sky and watch the slight breeze sway the tops of the trees and I just listened. Then after some time I took a deep breath and wrote out to God about my heaviness. This didn’t cause any weight to lift, but at least it was not hidden. Then I proceeded to open my Bible and started digging into Isaiah chapters 40 and 41.    

I wish I could say that the heavens opened and glory came down and filled my soul and the weight was lifted and I walked away from my quiet time skipping light as a feather as I sang the praises of my blessed Redeemer… but I can’t.
However, I was reminded by my blessed Redeemer that He had chosen me and not rejected me. I was reminded that I was not to fear because He was with me. I was told that I was not to look anxiously about me for He was my God. I was told that He would strengthen me and would surely help me and He would uphold me with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:9-11).

He didn’t say that He would remove the blah day, but He would help me and strengthen me. Today I am still in the blah day, but there is less blah than yesterday ūüôā

The blah days are when we trust what we learned in the wonderful days. As God is carrying us through the blah days, He doesn’t leave us without encouragement. When I checked my email this morning I received some words of encouragement from a fellow follower of Christ, Mr Chuck Swindoll:

I don’t know what your intimidating giant is today. It may relate to your job, your roommate, or your school. Maybe it is a person, a lawsuit, unemployment, a disaster . . . maybe even your own partner in life. Perhaps it is some fear that is lurking around the corner, sucking your energy and draining your faith. God is saying to you right now, “All I ask of you is five smooth stones and a sling of faith. I’ll take it from there. You don’t have to wear somebody else’s armor. You just trust Me. And I’ll strip you down to nothing but faith, and then I’ll accomplish a victory where I’ll get the glory.
But as for you . . . you trust Me.”
Perhaps you don’t know what lies across the valley. Maybe you can’t get a handle on what that giant is; but it’s there, haunting you. That uncertainty alone is a giant. But look at that worry in comparison to the Lord God Himself, and say, by faith, “The battle is Yours, Lord. It is Your battle. I lean on You. I give You all my weapons, all my skills, and I stand before You, trusting You.”
It is God’s love for us that causes Him to bring us to an end of our own strength. He sees our need to trust Him, and His love is so great that He will not let us live another day without surrendering our arms to Him, giving Him our fears, our worries, even our confusion, so that nothing becomes more significant to us than our Father.
Never, ever forget it: the battle is the Lord’s!
So from the pen of Isaiah and from the pen of Chuck, the Lord’s message remains the same… trust Him. 
I love how God never says, “well if you really loved me you wouldn’t be feeling that way.” God never condemns us according to our feelings. It is our actions that matter to Him. It’s not our feelings, but how we respond to our feelings. 
So in these blah days, these heavy days that haunt, these days that have us walking around like those old Looney Tunes cartoons… you know the ones… the ones where the one single rain cloud is above one person’s head and it’s pouring down rain and thundering and lightening above them and yet the sun is shining all around and on everyone else…
yes, in these days…
trust Him.

>Promises In The Word of God Concerning My Husband

>I found this prayer tucked away in my journal. I can’t remember who shared it with me, but I used to pray it over my husband daily. I believe now that I have rediscovered it I will begin to pray it over him again. Maybe you would like to pray it over your husband or your future husband or fellas take it and adapt it your wife or future wife and pray it over her. It is never to soon or too late to pray for our spouse. When you read “my husband” replace it with your husband’s name (or wife’s once adapted).

“Father, I pray today, in the name of Jesus, that my husband will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in it season; its leaf also shall not whither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper (Psalm1:1-3).

Thank You that You have raise him up together with You, and made him to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; he is Your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which You have before ordained that he should walk in them (Ephesians 2:6,10)

I bow my knees unto the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that You would grant my husband, according to the riches of Your glory, to be strengthened with might by Your Spirit in His inner man; that Christ may swell in his heart by faith; that he will be rooted and grounded in love, and may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that he might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:13-21).

I pray that no corrupt communication proceed out of his mouth, but that which is good to use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29).

Father, I will to submit myself unto my own husband, as unto the Lord. And I thank You that my husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. I desire that my husband love me even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it. I will to reverence and respect my husband in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:22-33)

We are heirs together of the grace of life and our prayers will not be hindered, we pray. We will be of one mind, having compassion one of another, loving and courteous, not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that we are called to this, that we should inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:7-9).

I desire that my husband might be filled with the knowledge of your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that he will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to Your glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness. You have made him fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of Light and have delivered him from the power of darkness and have transferred him into the kingdom of Your Son in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:9-14).

I plead the blood of Jesus over my husband. I claim the full armor of Jesus around him. May he stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around his waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and may his feet be fitted with the gospel of peace. In addition to all this may he take up the shield of faith with which he can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. May he take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God and may he pray in the Spirit at all times, in all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and petitions. With this in mind may he also be alert and always keep praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:14-18).

I ask these things, believing in Your Word.
In Christ’s name,
Amen”  

>Back in the Journal

>March 2, 2002

“for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Luke 12:12
“I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin, I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.” Psalm 39:1

Father, help me to deal with conflict the way your son Jesus Christ would. Help me to control my tongue and my anger. Help me to forget and forgive. Help me to admit when I am wrong. Help me to know when to stand firm firm and when to compromise.
In Jesus name,
Amen


March 4, 2002

Father, I just want to praise You and thank You for Your mercy and grace! I thank You for Your faithfulness. I pray that I will remain just as faithful to You! The devil tried all day today to make me lose my temper and lose my peace but Your Holy Spirit remained strong in me and the devil did not succeed. I thank You for my peace and praise You for my strength because I know that all I am is of You and from You!
In Jesus name,
Amen

Now I do not recall what prompted either on of these journal entries in March 2002. It is apparent that my tongue and temper had gotten the best of me. It could have been a fight with my husband. It could have been a telemarketer. It could have been some stranger cutting me off in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. I don’t remember, but it was enough for me to write it down. It was enough to convict me and have me searching out the Scriptures for help in case it happened again. It was apparently a strategy of the enemy that worked quit well because it only took two days before I had an opportunity to trust in the Scripture references I had written down.

What I gather from this journal look-back is that God was faithful. His Word was faithful. When I trusted in Him and pulled out my Sword of Truth I was victorious. This day I had success. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when we won a victory it was the last battle on that particular subject we would have to fight. Unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. It leans more in the direction that the more battles you win the harder the next attack comes. The enemy of our souls just does not give up that easily. How I praise God that greater is He who is within me than he who is in the world.

The thing is we never know who is watching us. We are at all times affecting someone- in our home, in our families, in our neighborhood, in our communities. The wicked are around us, the lost are around us, the saved are around us, fallen ones are around us, angels of mercy are around us.

We never know when what comes out of our mouth will be used against us or used to blaspheme the name of our God among the lost. We never know when our words will hurt or how they will affect someone we didn’t even know was listening. We never know when our tempermant can be used to turn someone away from our testimony of the grace of our God.

However, at the same time we can know how a sincere apology will be used for us. We may never know when seeking God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the ones we have wounded with our tongue and temperment will be used by God to demonstrate His grace, but it will be. I cannot even begin to share all the times I have had to apologize for harsh words to my husband. Nor can I even begin to share all the times I have had to sit down with my children and tell them I am sorry for my harsh words and tone. I can’t even begin to tell of the times I have had to call and apologize to a clerk at a store for allowing something out of their control to frustrate me.

I can recall one specific incident that happened at the photo booth at Wal-Mart, probably around the time of these journal entries mentioned. I don’t remember why I was upset, but something had happened and for whatever reason the store policy would not fix what I felt was their mistake. Any way I do remember being very rude to this poor clerk who was really just trying to do her job. I felt justified in my anger and rude words and tone… until about the parking lot. Then I spent the drive home explaining to God how I was justified in my attitude… yeh, that didn’t work out to well.

So I walk in the door of our home and head to the phone book and search out the Wal-Mart photo section phone number and call the photo booth and proceed to apologize to this woman. I had to confess to her that I was a Christian and I had not been a very good example of my Christ.

The funny thing is that I think she was probably more affected by my call of confession and apology than she would have been had I been perfectly behaved in front of her the first time. Not that I in anyway recommend this course and order of action, it’s just that all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose and what the enemy intended for evil God will use for good if we will just trust and obey.

>Victory in Jesus

>It never ceases to amaze me how well our God knows us and our sin condition. I am doing a little research on friendship and social interactions. As I went to my Strong’s to research the words friend, companion, brother, and sister I discovered over 600 references to these words in the Scriptures, then as I began to dig deeper I saw that their are different specific definitions to these words according to their context. I’ll be spending more time looking into that in the next few weeks, the Lord has peaked my curiosity.

Well as I was looking at this I thought, “isn’t there some sort of disorder that keeps people from being able to socialize with others”. So I head to the computer and google “social disorder” and this is some of what I learned from the Mayo clinic:

Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition that causes an irrational anxiety or fear of activities or situations in which you believe that others are watching you or judging you. You also fear that you’ll embarrass or humiliate yourself.

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Intense fear of being in situations in which you don’t know people
  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention

Physical signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Blushing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Difficulty talking
  • Shaky voice
  • Muscle tension
  • Confusion
  • Palpitations
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Difficulty making eye contact

You may also be affected by:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble being assertive
  • Negative self-talk
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism
  • Poor social skills

Common, everyday experiences that may be difficult to endure when you have social anxiety disorder include:

  • Using a public restroom or telephone
  • Returning items to a store
  • Interacting with strangers
  • Writing in front of others
  • Making eye contact
  • Entering a room in which people are already seated
  • Ordering food in a restaurant
  • Being introduced to strangers
  • Initiating conversations

Left untreated, social anxiety disorder can be debilitating. Your anxieties may run your life. They can interfere with work, school, relationships or enjoyment of life. You may be considered an “underachiever,” when in reality it’s your fears holding you back from excelling. In severe cases, you may drop out of school, quit work or lose friendships.

Social anxiety disorder can also lead to other health problems, such as:

  • Substance abuse
  • Excessive drinking
  • Depression
  • Suicide

I read this and I thought, my goodness, this was me.
This STILL IS me at times, if I let it be.
Shocking news (not really) as you read this info you also read that women are most likely to suffer from this “social anxiety disorder”. How ironic that we as women are labeled as not being able to pass up a conversation yet studies show that we as women are most likely to suffer from this social disorder.

Oh my, before I came to lean on the everlasting arms of my Savior I really did suffer from this. I recall it hitting me in 1st grade. I would go to the nurse everyday sick just to get out of class. I remember going to the teacher balling my eyes out asking her to move my seat because these two boys were smiling and giggling at me. I remember hiding behind the filing cabinet when the class left for P.E. because we were supposed to be playing a new game that day that I had never played and I was terrified. I remember sitting in class with my head down, making no eye contact with the teacher hoping with all my might that she would not call me to go to the board. I don’t know why I reacted this way to such things. I had a wonderful loving family. There was nothing outside of myself to blame this on. It was within me.

Even in college when asked to go work something out on the board, terror would strike me. What if something was on the back of my pants? What if my underwear was showing? What if I trip on the way up? What if I forget what I am doing when up there? What if I pass gas in front of everyone, because my stomach was already upset from being nervous from just walking in the door to the classroom? What if?
Do you know I dropped speech at least four times in college. I was 30 years old before I finally conquered this class, but in the power of Christ and in the strength that He gave me I had victory.

John wrote perfect love casts out fear. Jesus told us to cast ALL our cares on Him. Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything but in all things pray. Jesus said I am with you. No matter the situation I am with you. Little by little the perfect love of my Saviour has been working away at the things that used to leave me crippled in fear. As I learn that I am nothing apart from Him I learn that I am everything in Him.

So to my fellow in the closet or out of the closet social anxiety disorder friends:
Know that nothing is impossible with God.
Know that in Christ you can have victory.

He’s Still Working On Me

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“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

Psalm 5:3

The Lord was so kind to me this morning to show me the flip side of His favor as He took me to Psalm 5. I read “For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12)¬†You see I had rather have the favor of God and be hated by the world than be loved by the world and be without the favor of God. The truth is you can’t have both the favor of God and the favor of the world. I choose the favor of God no matter what the world may throw at me.

I know that the favor of God is as a shield and all this world can do is destroy my flesh and what is seen. It cannot touch my spirit or the eternal unseens that are mine in Christ. I will persevere and hold fast to the promises of my God that I find in His Word. Oh what treasures they are!

After spending the beginning of my morning telling God all that was on my mind and pouring out my frustrations and my fears and reminding Him of certain situations that were going on. I said “Amen” and then laid my head on my Bible and prayed that God would sanctify me by His truth, His Word is truth. (Yes I will even try osmosis to get all of God’s Word firmly established in my mind and heart and soul)

I then begin to read over Isaiah 40 and¬†was once again reminded of the greatness of my God. I read¬†“Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him?” Isaiah 40:13.

At this point I shake my head and smile up at the beautiful blue sky dusted with the white swirls and puff of clouds of my Creator God and I say to Him, “Oh Father, I love You.” I say this because I am overwhelmed with the patience of my God. How patient He is with me. His lovingkindness endures forever.

I¬†read this particular verse in Isaiah and it hit me how¬†often I come to God to “inform” Him of what is going on. Coming to¬†Him as though He somehow has missed this situation or has forgotten that this certain thing was going on and He needed me to give Him a heads up.

“Oh by the way Everlasting¬†God, the LORD,¬†Creator of the ends of the earth have you¬†forgotten me…?”

“Why do you say, O Nicole, my way is hidden from the LORD and the justice do me escapes the notice of my God?”

Yep, face to face with Isaiah 40:27-28.

Guilty!
Head down.
Head down, but leaned into the everlastingly loving, kind, patient chest of my God.

And I can almost feel His kiss on the top of my forehead as He looks deep into my heart and says “those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with¬†wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.¬†Do not go down to Egypt¬†for help, I am your very present help in times of trouble”

Oh Father, thank You for Your word…

>The Favor of God

>”The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30)

The past few weeks I have been praying that God would grant me favor. That He would find favor with me in some certain areas that I have been praying over and about. This morning as I was spending time with Him I once again prayed for favor, it’s written down in my journal “Oh Father show me Your favor.”

After my personal time, I turned in my Bible to the first chapter of Luke to work on my Sunday morning Small Group lesson. I read Luke 1:30 and it’s like the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Do you really know what you are asking for Nicole? Go and see what it really means to have the favor of God.”

So I went for my Strong’s Concordance and began a word search on the word “favor”.

Hmmmm let’s see…

In Genesis 39:21 I read that Joseph had found favor with God.
In Exodus 3:21 I read that the children of Israel had found favor with God.
In 1 Samuel 2:26 I read that Samuel had favor with God. 
In Esther I read that she found favor with God.
In Job I read that he had found favor with God.
In Daniel 1:9 I read that Daniel had found favor with God.
Then of course there is, John the Baptist, Mary, Jesus… all these found favor with God.

Hmmmm now lets’ see…

Well Joseph was sold as a slave into a foreign land by his brothers and put into prison for a crime he didn’ t commit. That’s favor?
Israel is chased by the entire Egyptian army and pursued after their deliverance and has been through a Holocaust and still to this day is hated by the world. That’s favor?
Samuel had to go to the man who taught and trained him and tell him that God was removing him and his entire family from their position and then he had to deal with Saul. That’s favor?
Esther was taken from her home as a captive and forced to parade before a king hoping to win his hand and then had to stand up to this king at the risk of her life to save her people. That’s favor?
Job lost everything he had and then had to put up with sucky friends. That’s favor?
Daniel was taken captive as a child, falsely accused multiple times, and thrown in a lion’s den. That’s favor?
John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, was hated by Herod, thrown in prison and beheaded. That’s favor?
Mary was found pregnant when engaged to be married and had to flee for her life so as not to be stoned then had to watch her firstborn Son endure the cross. (If you have ever had to watch your child suffer you know the pain of this moment.) That’s favor?
Jesus… by His stripes we were healed, He bore the sins of the entire world on His shoulder’s. Was obedient to the point of death even death on the cross. Laid aside the glory of heaven and took the form of man. Just to die for the ungodly. That’s favor?

Yes, that’s favor. The favor of God. The favor of God does not mean a life of wine and roses. It means a life of water and thorns. It’s living a life of knowing that the fulfilled purpose of God is worth any temporary discomfort in the present. So if you are like me and you have been praying for the favor of God. Do you know what you are really asking? Have you counted the cost?

The Lord had to stop me for a moment and check me. He had to remind me that getting His favor was not the same as me getting my way. So was my prayer really “Oh Father show me Your favor” or was it “Oh Father give me what I want.” I honestly think that as I wrote that and have been praying it these past few weeks it was the latter.

So now with a freshly humbled heart, one that has been striped by the belt of Truth I must reconsider my prayer…

Do I still now in full knowledge seek the favor of God?

Yes, I do.
But no longer according to my will…
Oh Father, Thy will be done.

>A Real Lady

>“A real lady always keeps her house clean and organized, the laundry basket is always empty. She’s always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations and all circumstances. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips, and a kind word for everyone. Post this as your status if you, too, suspect that you might be a man.”
(borrowed from the facebook status of a friend) 

When I first was married I kept an immaculate house. People would comment that you could eat off of my kitchen floors, and truthfully you probably could. When people would come to visit I would lliterally follow behind them with a broom and dust pan and clean up the dirt that they tracked in right behind them. If a glass was set down on the coffee table or end table it was picked up by me and washed and returned to the cabinet before the person even noticed it was missing (used to drive my husband nuts). You see I come from a long line of neat freak perfectionist on my mother’s side of the family and well honestly so is my father. You can go into his shop and everything has it’s place and is labeled as to what drawer what tool goes in. 

I maintained this standard of cleanliness, driving myself and I am sure everyone else crazy. Then we began attending church and then my life was radically changed. I began studying the Word of God for hours at a time and then I began teaching. Then we got custody of our oldest and she moved in with us from North Carolina and also our youngest was born at this same time. We went from a small trailer and a family of three/sometimes four to a house and a full-time family of five that included a teenager, a toddler, and a newborn.

I was teaching Sunday School and then the Lord called me to teach a Sunday night class and then also at this time He called me to not just take Precept classes, but to teach them. Something had to go. It was a Mary vs Martha moment (Luke 10:38-42). I had a choice to make between an immaculately clean home or sitting at the feet of my Lord. There was no way I could do both and maintain any resemblance of sanity in my home. I wish I could say this was an immediate easy transition, but it wasn’t. 

As I said it was in my nature to be clean, not just picked up, but cloroxed doors and base boards once a month, and floors and bathrooms cleaned daily, dishes always done, laundry always going, beds always made, no dust ever in sight. Clutter and muck would physically affect me. If things got to cluttered around me, my temperament became cluttered. I shutter to think of the “Momma rampages” my children have endured because of a messy house as I would become frustrated, irritated, and jumpy. It still does this to me at at times.

So I would fight the guilt of a not perfect home. If I ever made the mistake of saying, ‘well I’ll just start a load before my quiet time’, then the next thing I would know the kids would be up and I would be scrubbing the toilet while my Bible still lay unopened on the kitchen table. Then would come the guilt of realizing I had chosen wrong. Now I was irritated for the rest of the day because with kids up, I would not get my “quiet time.” I had missed my opportunity to sit at Jesus’s feet because of a load of laundry. Yes, this still happens to me at times.  

I love the many ways that God uses His church. He brings us together for a purpose and that purpose is for our benefit. If you are forsaking the assembly, stop. If you attend church as a check list and never get involved relationally with those who are around you, stop. God has built His church, He has designed it in such a way that the gates of hell cannot touch it. He did this because we need His church. We need each other. In so many ways, take the plunge my friend, stop forsaking the assembly for whatever reason you have and stop just getting in and out as quickly as possible. Make friends. Join a small group. Attend the functions. Get involved. Trust me it is for your benefit.

As I was struggling with my Mary vs Martha moment (that really has not been a moment but a work in progress) the Lord placed wonderful women in my life who helped me get perspective and peace. Oh how I needed these women, how I still need them.

One of my now dearest friends invited us over to their home to go swimming. I was a nervous wreck and only called to see if we could come on this day because it was so freaking hot outside and my child was driving me crazy. Making friends was hard for me. I didn’t have a very big trust factor in people at this time. But I called, she said come on over, so we did.

We walked in and the house was a wreck, like mine, but she hadn’t felt the need to go into the mad rush of crazy screaming at everyone while cleaning because company was coming over. She was just real. She jokes that God has given her the ministry of making others feel better about their own house. The truth is God has given that to her as a ministry. I am not sure if she even to this day understands the load that the Lord was able to finally lift off of my shoulders because of her.  

So now ten years later, the priority in the house cleaning is to make sure nothing is growing in the fridge. It is to make sure there is at least a path through the toys to get to the door in case the house catches on fire. It is to clean the toilet when that nasty ring shows up around the top of the water. It is to wash the dishes when we can’t use either side of the sink because both are full. It’s to clean the floor when we can’t find the hardwood underneath the dog hair. It’s to do laundry when we run out of towels and clean underwear. It’s to find the dining room table when company is coming for dinner. It’s to make the beds when we are going to be out of town and they won’t be slept in for a few days (gotta make it worth it, right). And it’s maybe once every couple of months doing everything all in the same day just to remind myself (and my husband) that I could still keep an immaculate house if I wanted to.  

Yes, I still have those moments where Martha wins over Mary… but they grow less and less and that’s what walking in victory is all about, getting better one step at a time, one day at time, always pressing forward.

>The Journal Is Out

>I have out the journals. Now these journal entries will be shared with the utmost discretion. My mother and close friends have been told of there whereabouts and have been instructed that if the Lord so wills to bring me home in a quick manner they are to burn these journals before they are read by anyone. You see they hold my insanity. I learned a long time ago that if I would put my emotions on paper, in writing, it cleared my head and my heart and helped me to think more rationally. In my Christian walk I have learned that I can stop Satan’s lies if I put them down on paper and then hold them up to the Word of God. So many times I don’t even realize it is a lie of that serpent of old until I see it in writing.

I have open in my lap now a journal entry from January 23, 2002. At this point I had been a wife for two and a half years, a step-mother for two and a half years, a mother for seven months, and a newly wholly surrendered believer for one month.

My prayer in my journal on January 23, 2002…
“Lord I pray that You will teach me to submit to my husband. I pray that you will help me bite my tongue and my pride so that I will live more according to Your will. You are the Almighty God who in all things are possible so I know You can do this! “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13) “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God.” (Titus 2:4-5)”

My prayer in my journal on January 24, 2002…
“I pray that You will continue to speak to my heart and I pray that I will hear Your words. I also pray that You’ll help me to submit to Patrick, Lord I will have a hard struggle with this and I need Your hand on this situation because I don’t believe I really know how to submit. Father, I just want to make You proud!”

I find it absolutely not a coincidence that the first area that God opened my eyes to was my marriage and my place in it. You see I was a hard-hearted woman. I had lost faith in men as a whole. I was a jaded, independent, self-sufficient, stubborn red-headed Halbrooks. I needed no one, so I thought. When I married I told myself and others that I would never be a “kept” woman. I depended on no one but myself  and really trusted no one, including my husband. My husband telling me as much was what shook me to the point of picking up my Bible again.

The first small group class that the Lord put me in was Manna for Moms and Sue Fallin was the teacher. The first class I recall sitting through was on submission, and I remember well my neck stiffening and my back straightening in defiance to what she was saying. I believe I even had a little snitful comment to make about it also. However, she spoke truth, and it is the truth that sets you free. So I have spent the last twelve years learning how to submit to my husband. This is not a 6 week, 12 step, fix it and forget it subject. This is a learn as you go till death do you part subject.   

I thank God for the godly women that He has placed in my life. He surrounded me with Titus 2:4-5. He placed me with those who could teach me how to love my husband and my children. I could learn from them and I am so glad that I have chosen to listen. I know that I am not there yet, I could probably turn to my 2011 journal and find an entry that once again cries out to God to help me submit to my husband.

If I can give a word of advice to any married couple it would be this: If you are struggling in anyway in your marriage (and by the way if you are not struggling now I can almost bet there will come a day that you will, it’s just life and love) make a connection with a couple that has succeeded. Find that couple that after 30, 40, 50 years together they still hold hands when they walk out of church or smile at each other and compliment each other. You can see their love and commitment to each other and to the Lord in their eyes. Find them, and talk with them, and listen and learn from them.

Choose Death

confessions

“Whoever said that marrying and having children was to be trouble free? It‚Äôs one of the hardest things in the world. It just happens to be right and rewarding.” (John Piper)

Yeh, so who was it that said marrying and having children would be trouble free? I can’t recall it. I don’t know where that lie began. With Disney? With Hollywood? With fictional romance novels? I mean Shakespeare did not write that way. Look at Romeo and Juliet. Homer did not write that way. Have you ever read the tangled mess of life and love in The Odyssey and The Iliad? The Bible certainly did not say that. Look at Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. Look at Noah and his sons. Look at Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Ishmael. Look at Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Esau. Look at David. Good grief I could just keep going on and on.
So where exactly did we come up with the delusion of a trouble free marriage?
In the words of an old Saturday Night Live skit, “Could it be, could it be, Satan?”

Let’s just stop and think for a moment of what a marriage in our fallen world actually is. It is two completely separate people who are raised¬†in completely different homes by completely different parents. They have separate personalities. Separate backgrounds, even if they were raised in the same neighborhood and grew up in the same church from the womb, they are still two separate and unique individuals.

Then in our “dating” society,¬†these two separate individuals catch each others eye and then spend the next however many days, months, years, pretending to be the perfect person for this one whose eyes they have caught. They are on their best behaviour at all times, they say things they¬†don’t mean, they pretend to like things they really hate, they do things they have never done in a way they have never done it because they think this person likes it that way. They assume, compromise, fake, twist, distort,¬†fabricate all in the name of “love”.

Then when they have successfully pulled the wool over each others eyes, they come together and say “I do”. Then it happens, it’s harder to¬†keep up the charade on a 24 hr, 7 day a week basis. The scary thing is that usually neither one of you even really realized that it was a charade.¬†You were just playing the game. You saw what you wanted and you did what you had to do to get it and now you have it and you have just realized you have no clue what to do with it.

You also have just realized that you have forgotten who you really were as you pretended to be something and someone else for so long. Now you look in the mirror at this stranger in front of you and then over to the other side of the bed at this stranger lying beside you.

Now it becomes a mission. I will make this work. I will¬†continue to be who I have convinced this person I am if it kills me… and it will.¬†Here lies the test of faith. Here is where the rubber will meet the road. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

Oh yes,¬†we will try to keep it up, the charade. We will work our fingers to the bone and concoct all sorts of strategies to make it work. We will read books and watch Dr Phil¬†and we will grow tired and frustrated. The other stranger will not meet our expectations. We will accuse each other of not trying hard enough to pretend to be someone we¬†never really were to begin with… and then it comes to the moment of do or die.

Will you choose to die? Will you choose to stop the charade? Will you choose to die to who you are pretending to be, to who you were, to the you, you are trying to hold on to? Will you choose to die?

If you choose death, then your marriage will live. “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is¬†valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Yes, unless that grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. Marriage is God taking two completely different unique individuals and meshing them into a brand new creation and birthing out of this creation fruit of uniqueness. If you are a skeptic on miracles, how much more of a miracle is this? Why would Satan be working so hard to destroy our marriages and redefine what a marriage is, if it did not so amazingly and wonderfully display the glory of our God?

A living marriage is a double suicide. Two people choosing to die (or kill each other in the process) and allowing God to breathe life back into them and raise them from the dead to live a life of unity, to become one flesh. The awesome thing is that God can make us one flesh without ever destroying our uniqueness. While if we try to do it ourselves, apart from Him, we do destroy our uniqueness.

No matter how or where the marriage began, no matter how far and how long the charade game has been played, no matter the mess, if both will choose die to themselves then God will validate that covenant and it will bear much fruit. Here lies the test of faith. When the rubber meets the road will you be willing to die?

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily”.¬†The truth is marriage is not trouble free, raising children is not easy, learning to live in unity with another unique individual is hard, but not impossible. With God all things are possible and if we will place our marriage in the hand of God¬†then¬†He will use it to display His image, His glory, and His grace.

“So death works in¬†us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12)

>Friendship

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The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn