Am I REALLY called to be vulnerable?

Vulnerable is a hot word immersing itself in the Christian community as well as the culture today. Too often and too easily we jump on the newest bandwagon of trends gullibly believing it’s good. Everywhere you go people want vulnerable and raw. But do you?

Webster’s dictionary defines vulnerable as

  • Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
  • Open to attack or damage (vulnerable to criticism)

In essence to be vulnerable is to put yourself in a positon with those around you so you are open to being wounded and attacked. Does that sound wise to you?

There’s a lie that seeks to tell you the only way for real community to happen, is for you to be vulnerable. To put your heart out there, to others whose hearts are corrupted by sin, to be wounded or open to attack can be incredibly hurtful.

There are people I’ve known for a long time and all the more reason I wouldn’t be vulnerable with them. Love them? YES! Honest and sincere with them? Of course! But open myself to be wounded or attacked by their judgments and opinions? No!

Beloved, this doesn’t mean we wear masks, pretend we have it all together or not share our lives with each other. God desires us to live in authentic community together.

Paul prays our love would abound more and more in depth of knowledge and insight. (Philippians 1:9). He urges us to love the family of God more and more in 1 Thessalonians 4:10.

God’s Word instructs us to be sincere, to be honest, and to get rid of all hypocrisy. Real relationships happen when people stop pretending, share honestly and sincerely. Sincerity and honesty is not vulnerability.

Love without wisdom can lead to a lot of hurt to already wounded hearts. I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact the rise in vulnerability has in the rise of emotional abuse.

Vulnerability can display itself as a counterfeit love that whispers unless I know your deepest wounds and struggles; I can’t love you or be in a real relationship with you. Real love accepts you where you are and believes the best without stipulations. It’s okay to wrestle some things out between you and God until you are willing or led to share with a trusted friend. Confessing our sins to one another and praying for each other is powerful and can bring a deeper intimacy and love to relationships when it happens in a trusted setting. Not everyone is that person.

Too many are getting hurt by the church and instead of running away licking our wounds, we need to ask God to give us wisdom in our relationships and not believe every fad or trend.

Not everyone is trustworthy. Vulnerability is not what’s needed to build authentic relationships: truth, love, trustworthiness, honesty and sincerity are.

Be wise. Be careful. When God leads you, share authentically. Don’t feel obligated to put your heart out there to people you don’t know well or who appear untrustworthy. Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life

By: Kelly Vance

www.kellyvance.net

A Typical Female Moment

“Let’s go!” Marc called back to me as he grabbed my suitcase and his and took off at a jog towards the airport. We were finally going on vacation and getting a break from the farm and work.

I was so excited to get away; nothing beats the joy and relaxation of a good vacation. It had been 7 months since I’d left suburbia and all that I knew and moved to the country, so I was definitely feeling the need to get out and see some city life and the ocean!

We were also going to get to stay with some of Marc’s friends from college (and also get to see our friends who introduced us). I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks and it was finally here!

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When we got to the beach, it was beautiful and I loved Marc’s friends! Vacation was off to a wonderful start.

Then it happened. From the pit, the green-eyed monster of jealousy crept into my heart. I wasn’t used to sharing Marc; out on the farm there is really only Bill and I to vie for Marc’s affections. While I really enjoyed getting to see him pal around with his old friends, I couldn’t shake the feeling of jealousy. What was more upsetting to me than the feelings of jealousy was the fact that I was jealous!

I soon was lost in a circular pit of being angry with myself for feeling the way I was feeling and angry that my anger was affecting my usual light-hearted demeanor. I was having what I like to call “A Typical Female Moment.” Wrapped up so tight in emotions and I couldn’t seem to get out of them. Why couldn’t I get over it? I was ruining my vacation and possibly others around me.

I finally couldn’t take the way I was feeling any longer and I told Marc the night before we left. He completely blew me away with the grace and love he gave me. I definitely didn’t deserve it and it actually made me feel even worse. (I’m SUCH a female!)

As we said our goodbyes the next morning, I tried my best to be as chipper as I could to make up for my terrible behavior the day before, wishing I could erase the day before and start over.

After Marc and I made it through airport security, I started to feel terrible again. Enter feelings of guilt at not fully enjoying our vacation I had been so excited about and dragging Marc into it. I was sitting in an over-priced airport restaurant saving a table for Marc and I while he got our food. I can remember staring at some car race on the TV, trying not to cry.

I tried not to cry waiting in the gate; I tried not to cry waiting in line to get on the plane, I tried not to cry sitting in our seats… I tried, and failed. Marc turned to give me a hug and the floodgates released. I didn’t deserve a hug! After my terrible mood and emotional roller coaster I’d forced Marc to ride with me, I deserved to be punished, I thought. When he saw my tears his face immediately changed to concern and I blubbered, “I really wish you would be a little more awful to me sometimes.”

Marc immediately enveloped me into another hug and whispered, “Why would you say that? No one should be ‘awful’ to you! Ever! I love you.”

After that I got to share more of how I was feeling, get all my processing out and finally feel better, more like me. But I think I will always remember that feeling, the feeling of being loved when I didn’t deserve it.

The next day at church, we sang “How He Loves,” and I was hit with how much God loves us. That even in my worst, He will always love me (Ephesians 2:4-5). In a small way, Marc exemplified that to me. Choosing to love me when I was unlovable.

How thankful I am to serve a God that loves and cherishes me, and that He blessed me with family, friends, and a husband who strive to do the same. Even when I am an emotional, jealous, and frustrating woman!

By: Brianna Molitor (Photo Credit: @copyright2017BriannaNicolePhotography All Rights Reserved)

http://farmhousestories.com/new-blog/the-farmhouse

 

When You Need God’s Protection: A Reflection on Psalm 3

Last year I saw the movie “Risen.” In one point of the movie every man had shields in front of their bodies—then they moved them to above their heads, and it was like an overhead wall covering the entire army. Amazingly, the army in the back, used those shields to run up to the front line. Yes! They ran on top of the shields that were on top of the men’s heads. It was very cool seeing the many ways the shield is used.
Now, with that visual, reflect on this: God is our shield. He shields us from emotional and spiritual battles. Verse three says, “He lifts my head.” When we are disappointed, discouraged, or sad, we can picture God lifting our heads. Imagine Him smiling as He does this. He loves us so dearly. He is so compassionate and full of mercy. His smile says He accepts us as we are.
There is great hope when we cry to God. He hears our every whimper and sees every tear. Jeremiah 33:3 tells us, Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know. Why don’t we do this more often? Why do we run to other people first? Why do we choose to privately grieve for days without going to God?
Today we can be assured that God is our protection, He hears us when we cry, and He answers. Today, we can make David’s prayer our prayer. Surrender the sin of independence, and humbly run to God. God says He will “lift our heads.”

David’s prayer starts out in conflict, then goes into confidence, then celebration. This is a great model for us because we all experience conflict at some time or another. In confidence take your conflicts to God. He will help you and restore you. Now that is cause for celebration!
• What or who is coming against you?
• In what ways do you need God to put His shield around you?
• Is your head bowed low? Tell God about your sadness and ask Him to lift your head.
• Read and reflect on Psalm 3

Debbie is a published author, national speaker and workshop presenter, and a partner with the Polished Conference Ministries L.L.C. She facilitates an online Bible study page on Facebook, teaches Bible study in her church, and blogs at Shining Together! Debbie has written Shine! Radiating the Love of God, a Bible study designed exclusively for young women ages 13-18. Additionally, she has articles in the Divine Moments series, and is a monthly contributor to Refined Magazine. All books are available at grace-publishing.com. She would love to speak at your next women’s event, teen event, or at the college where she brings an inspirational message to teachers in training called, “A Christian Perspective for an Inspirational Classroom.” Debbie is married and has three adult children. She travels from Asheville, NC. Visit her website at http://www.debbiepresnell.com, email her at: debpres@yahoo.com, or visit her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShineEveryDayNC.

Living Freely

Red, white and blue. These colors represent America. They remind us of our flag and the freedom we have in this country. This privilege came with great sacrifice. Men and women gave their lives for the freedoms we have in this country. They fought hard so that we could become separate and distinct. Even though the fourth of July is behind us now, we should always take time to thank God and our service men and woman who have given us this gift.

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Even though we enjoy the many benefits that come with living in a free nation, I fear that as a nation we are more enslaved than ever before. We may not be living under the tyranny of a dictator or under the control of a corrupt and evil ruler, but there are powerful forces within us and around us that daily threaten to mentally control us more than we realize.  If we are not cognizant of these influences, in many ways our lives will be no different than a person who is subdued by a greater power.

In no way am I trying to diminish the great freedoms we have been given in this country. But, our ability to speak freely, or assemble or vote nor any other right granted to us by the constitution will never compare to the freedom that comes from a spirit that is fully alive.

St. Irenaues once said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I would add that a person who is fully alive is the most free. They are not chained to empty philosophies or perpetual lies. Instead, they are redeemed by Christ, bathed by His grace, and fully released to live the life that He has granted them. This is freedom.

Though Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually martyred he offers us a picture of true freedom. It is not dependent upon our ability to move about freely. Instead, it comes from a spirit that has been redeemed and a soul that has been bathed in grace. And, though we have been given this freedom because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we must daily choose to embrace this gift. Otherwise, we will find ourselves enslaved to the deceptive messages of our day or the defeating beliefs that may derive themselves from the pages of our past.

As a woman, a wife, and/or a mother, take a look at the dominant messages that surround you and your children every day.  Do what you like.  Tolerance means you don’t disagree with the majority.  Follow your heart. These ideas, beliefs or principles run counter to the messages that come from God’s word and while they may seemingly sound inviting and even rational, many of these enslave us to a way of thinking or behaving that actually crushes us.

The internal forces often come from our own head. These can fears, voices of shame and lies. Quite often they originated from a painful past, a bad decision or a powerful and controlling relationship. Phrases and passages linked to these experiences pop in our mind when we are in the midst of dealing with a new disappointment, doubt or unwelcome disruption. While we may not always recognize these enslaving messages, they can powerfully control how we live our lives on a daily basis.

cross-2043874_1920Remembering can be a powerful exercise because sometimes we simply forget what we have. When it comes to being a free nation, we must make sure that we take time to realize the gift we have been given.  Even more importantly, for those who have placed their trust in Christ, we must daily remind ourselves of the freedom we have been given in Him and assess whether we are submitting to the empty deceit of the world of our mind or to fullness of God that invites us to a freedom that the world cannot offer.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— Colossians 2:8-10, 20

By: Jackie Perry

www.jackieperry.net

What Trial Are You Facing Today?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds ~ James 1:2

What trial are you facing right now? What is that one thing in your life that tests you, stretches you, pushes your buttons, and makes you wonder if God sees or cares.

For some of us, it’s a big storm that comes out of nowhere. A storm that completely changes or seriously challenges the course you were on. Dreams shattered, hopes dashed. Maybe it’s a medical storm, a relational storm, or a death storm.

For some of us the trial we face is daily sinful habits of others around us or in us that keep nagging like a buzzing mosquito. You even resist the temptation to complain about it, but if you were brutally honest, it is zapping you day by day, conversation by conversation, sucking your soul dry with each encounter.

Because of the unexpectancy and power of trials by storm, they often leave us devastated and surrendered. We sit in our ruins with our hands up pleading for God. He promises to be near the broken hearted, and while these trials feel overwhelming, just like the catastrophes in our world; people surround us, uphold us and walk with us. We sense God’s presence, peace and comfort somehow in the midst. Yes, it’s horrific, yes, it’s painful but often times we grow in our faith and we grow closer to Christ knowing more of Him in our lives.

But it’s those daily grind trials buzzing like a relentless mosquito seeking to suck a little blood, slowly working their way into your soul leaving you parched, sapped and hopeless. They rarely make their way on Facebook, or even to your bible study group because we tell ourselves we should be strong enough to handle it, after all, we are IN Christ. When you do take a risk and share these nagging irritants with a friend, she unintentionally minimizes it with a noble way to respond; as if you haven’t already tried many times over.

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Our big storms demand action but those little naggers are the ones we think we can handle on our own until we find ourselves becoming someone we don’t even like. It’s the handling on our own that lures us away step by step, moment by moment, day by day from the power we need in all trials as we abide in Christ.

Regardless of the trial you face today, God promises no matter how big or small, it will mature and complete you. Even those little nagging irritants that leave you frustrated deep within because you doubt it will ever change. They, too, are meant to mature us and complete us. While every trial we face is not because of us or even all about us, you can be sure that God has allowed it into your life for the purpose of perfecting you and your faith.

Instead of continuing to handle the matter on your own or pushing it off as not that big of a deal while it saps your soul of life, will you take it to God? Will you gather up all you’ve been handling on your own, lay it down at His feet and humbly ask Him two questions?

  1. What guidance can you give me so I can have victorious perseverance even if things don’t change?
  2. Jesus, how can I become more like you through this?

Gaining perspective in our trials and fixing our eyes on Jesus helps our trials to become powerful testimonies. Don’t be deceived into thinking that only the big storm trials of life our worthy of testimony. The victory of overcoming the daily grind trials and sinful patterns of those around us is every bit as powerful a witness of Christ in your life.

By: Kelly Vance

www.kellyvance.net 

Your Strong Roots ~ A Reflection on Psalm 1

The difference is real. The woman who walks with God is the recipient of His blessings. She is like a tree whose roots are firmly established and stretch to the river to receive their nourishment. She entwines her roots around the Word of God and ponders His precious words, for she knows they are her life. And she delights in them! His Word is a powerful source of spiritual energy and she draws her strength from these Living Waters. Although her roots are hidden, they are her most important part.

When the storms of life come she will not be whisked away, for her strong root system holds fast. When the drought season descends upon her, she will not wither. Pruning her limbs may cause discomfort but this process enables her to produce sweet-smelling, beautiful fruit in season (Galatians 5:22-23). She is able to achieve that which is worthwhile.

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Jeremiah 17:7-8 tells us, Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but it’s leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.

The ungodly woman is also like a tree. But her roots do not go deep or stretch to the river for nourishment. When the winds rage she is blown away and devastated. She withers in the heat, unable to bear fruit. She flounders. She is unstable in her ways and lives aimlessly without direction.landscape-790644_1920.jpg

  • Do you need spiritual refreshment today? Go to God and tell Him all about it.
  • Are you running with the ungodly? Turn around and get a new start.
  • Get connected with a godly women and let her help you plant strong roots.

 

Written by Debbie Presnell at www.debbiepresnell.com

 

Five Ways to Inspire Your Kids

Being a mom is a rewarding and gratifying journey, but it’s also a difficult one. Isn’t it amazing how one happy moment can improve even the hardest of days? We are not perfect people and we won’t be perfect parents either. We give it our best and yet, we still fall short of perfection.  God doesn’t ask us to be perfect but He delights in our seeking His wisdom and guidance.

Following are Five ways that we can inspire our children.

  1.  Ask Forgiveness– When we make a mistake with our child (and we all will) ask him/her for forgiveness. It could be an honest mistake. Once when my son was about 5 years old, we had begun the habit of regularly praying together at bedtime. “Please help my son be a good boy,” was part of the prayer. After months of praying, Will finally said, “I don’t like to pray anymore.” “Why?” I inquired. He said, “How would you like it if I asked God to help you be a better mom?” OUCH. I didn’t know how I was hurting his feelings by his misunderstanding of my perceived displeasure. I apologized for days. Other times I’ve had to apologize for a lousy disposition brought on by stress or tiredness. An apology is such a great examplefor our children. It models that none is perfect, while it teaches them to forgive.
  2.  Smile-A smile says, I like you, I accept you, you’re still my friend. A smile says that although you spilled your milk on the freshly mopped floor, or broke a window, bossed the neighborhood friends around, I forgive you, I’m not mad, and I won’t hold it against you. (This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be restitution.)
  3.  Encourage– Verbal encouragement is exceptionally important. But tangible encouragement is something your children can touch or look at and be reminded of again and again. A few ideas are:
  • Write special “sticky notes”and place them on bathroom mirrors or other places your children will see them. These could be notes of praise, Bible verses, or a simple, yet powerful, “I love you.” When my daughter left for college she pulled out a small suitcase containing ALL of the notes I had left her since preschool. Apparently they meant a lot to her.
  • Make a “Love Myself Alphabet.”Help your younger children write down the letters of the alphabet. Together, decide a character trait that begins with that letter. For example: A= all right; B= brave; C= curious, etc. For your teens: Delight and surprise your teen by creating this list for him/her. 🙂
  • Heart Shaped Mobile-This is fun to do on Valentine’s Day but it’s an equally sweet treat to randomly surprise your kids with this one. Cut 5 or 6 hearts of different sizes from pink and red construction paper. Connect them with paper clips in descending order. On the top heart, write your child’s name. Then on each heart, write a character trait or something in which they excel. This is especially good for preschool and kindergarten children who are emerging into literacy and are anxious to read. Hang the mobile from the ceiling or doorway for them to see when they wake up. I recently found that my 18- year- old- son had saved his mobile, and it was still hanging in his closet.
  1. Be Fair– I learned the hard way that what works for one child doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for the other. Both of my girls are the “cheerleader type” filled with passion and excitement and enjoy doing the “happy dance” when the occasion is right…like making an “A” on the biology exam. But my son is a quieter-type, an introvert, who prefers to be praised with the “silent look of admiration.” But at age five, when he caught his first fish with his dad, I did not yet know his preference. I applauded him and “screamed” for joy at the sight of that stinky fish. (His plans were to gross me out with it!) He cried and ran to hide in his room. What a lesson for me! If I don’t applaud my girls and do the happy dance, they are hurt and feel ignored. And if I offer crazy praise to my son, he feels embarrassed and disrespected. It is important to discover the unique qualities and characteristics of your child and then encourage and discipline accordingly. By doing so, you will meet your child’s needs.
  2. Commit to learn together– We all slip up and say or do things we wish we hadn’t. Decide to work on this common problem together. How about popcorn and movie to help your kids understand the power in our words. (This seems to be especially necessary with middle school girls.) Directions are below:
  • Make a big bowl of popcornwithout any salt or seasoning. Describe the taste as bland, dry, and plain. Then sprinkle salt on the popcorn and compare the before and after tastes. Explain that salt adds flavor. Teach them that salt added flavor to the popcorn and our mouths are the salt that flavor another person’s life.
  • Read the short version of Bambi(1942) or watch the Disney movie. Thumper’s father says, “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.”

We’re not perfect people raising children in a perfect world. But by applying these five inspirations, we can know we are doing our best to help our children feel loved, special, forgiven, and accepted. And isn’t that how God sees His children? 🙂

 

 By: Debbie Presnell

www.debbiepresnell.com

Dealing with Our Weary Hearts in the Midst of Unmet Expectations

The picture you see before you looks radically different from the image that was hung in your mental museum.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out.  What you see barely resembles the beautiful canvas you meticulously planned out. The prayers and pleas begin. Please God. Change the scenery…the person…the situation…my heart.  Hope fades as the bridge connecting the gap from where you are to where you long to be grows wider and longer and steeper. Regroup. Reframe.  Remember. He  is able. Even, when you are not.

Nonetheless, sorrow, disappointment, and perhaps, even despair quietly creep in to the innermost cavities of your heart.  These emotions bring exhaustion and weariness along with them.  The burden grows heavier.  You’ve been here before and were not planning on returning to this place.  Yet, somehow the path brought you back here.  The unmet expectations once again form a weight you never thought you’d have to carry again.

Your spouse isn’t who you  thought they were.

Raising kids no longer brings joy or satisfaction to your life.

The path you dreamed and desired so deeply is so different from the path you are on.

The mundane tasks of life crowd away the hope that things will ever change.

This unwanted stone is your reality.  But, oh how I know you long for something else.  Our hearts feels the weight of it all. Our mind replays, recreates, reimagines. Our body begins to drag.  No one wants this heaviness. What will you do with the weight that accompanies this place? Do you hear the voices that rise up from the pack that you are carrying?  The deceptive one lures you to protect your heart, to shield it from feeling any of this?  It promises relief by rejecting what you feel. It warns that these emotions will cripple you and cause your soul to crumble? This voice speaks a message that provokes fear or shame or guilt to swirl within you as you wrestle with how to deal with your reality and the uncomfortable emotions that continue to rise. The more you engage with this dialogue the more you begin to believe that Christians, those who really trust in the Lord, aren’t supposed to be sad and weary.  The voice will keep sounding until you continue to suppress the emotions and form a smile on the outside.  Your heart will begin to hide and sink and disappear.  A dissonance slowly occurs. The outside no longer reflects the agony on the inside.  A war is being waged.  If you continue to give in to this voice, more of you will slip away as you frantically place your energy in protecting the inside and painting the outside.

Amidst the noise that accompanies all this construction, a gentle whisper persistently beckons you to a land where the heart can freely feel and the mind can be renewed.  You want to believe that this hopeful place exists.  Could it be as real as the place you are in?  You try to imagine this but fear strikes you and reminds you that more desire can mean more death. The invitation to this place of authenticity relentlessly surrounds you.  Could this be from God, the lover of your soul?  He continues to invite you to sit and wish and wail on one side of the gap while He sits with you with His eyes able to see the other side.  In the midst of the deepest disappointment, our Great God dares us to lean on Him, to trust Him, to rest in Him.  He offers His promises to us as we lay down our expectations, our fears, our facades and fix our eyes solely on Him. The walls inside begin to crumble in this resting place and our captive heart is set free.  Here we can glimpse the Father’s heart for us.  As we remain here, we are gently coaxed to courageously expect more, dream more, desire more…from Him alone. His promises are enough. He is able.

Living with expectations, with hopes and dreams and desires for our lives can be so difficult at times.  Over and over again, we confront the todays that we could not possibly foresee yesterday. What will you do with the pain that resounds in your heart?  Where will your emotions propel you?  A place of striving, of concocting, of building facades?  Or a place of rest and renewal where your heart is known and loved and set free?

May all that you feel propel you to His feet, to experience His gift of grace, of rest, of renewed hope. In this place alone,you will surely experience rest for your soul.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

By: Jackie Perry | MS, LPCS, NCC

www.jackieperry.net